Head of Hopkins neuroscience department to step down


September 22, 2005|By Jonathan Bor | Jonathan Bor,Sun reporter

Dr. Solomon H. Snyder, whose research into human brain chemistry has led to fundamental understandings of behavior and addiction, plans to step down as head of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine's neuroscience department, which he created 25 years ago.

Snyder said he would remain as chairman until the medical school names a successor, perhaps by the end of the year.

After that, he will continue his scientific pursuits, running a laboratory that has been among the most fertile in the field.

`Not a rigid rule'

"Though it is not a rigid rule, it is university policy that when people are 65 or 66, they step down from administrative responsibilities," said Snyder, who is 66. "I feel the best thing I could do for the department, having built it from nothing, is to encourage new blood."

The medical school is conducting a national search for a successor and is under no precise timetable, said Hopkins spokeswoman Joann Rodgers.

"He's had an unprecedented and distinguished career at Hopkins, and we're delighted that he's going to remain in his scientific activities even after he steps down as chairman," Rodgers said.

She added that Snyder's plans have been known for some time.

Among his achievements is the discovery of many of the brain chemicals, known as neurotransmitters, which communicate messages from one cell to the next.

He is widely recognized for discovering the opiate receptors - proteins stimulated by opiate drugs such as heroin and morphine - and then natural opiate-like compounds in the brain that control pleasure and pain.


Snyder also found that gases such as nitric oxide and carbon monoxide are neurotransmitters.

Along with colleagues, he found that nitric oxide plays a major role in penile erections, which led to the identification of Viagra as a treatment for male impotence.

His discoveries are widely credited with helping scientists design drugs for the treatment of psychiatric illnesses.

In 1978, Snyder won the Lasker Award, which is widely considered the premier prize in medical science next to the Nobel.

Two years ago, he won the Presidential Medal of Science. He also is a member of the National Academy of Scientists, an elite group that advises Congress.


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