Dr. Paul John Kenny, associate professor in the department of molecular therapeutics at the Scripps Research Institute, Jupiter, Fla., has received the 2012 Mathilde Solowey Lecture Award in the Neurosciences for his research on the neurobiology of drug addiction.
The annual award, administered by the Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences, honors rising neuroscientists for innovative research having significant translational potential. Kenny will deliver a lecture titled, “Non-coding RNAs and Drug Addiction.”
Kenny leads a research group focused on understanding the neurobiological mechanisms of drug addiction, obesity and schizophrenia, with an emphasis on the role of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in these processes. The group uses genetics, viral-mediated gene transfer and protein and RNA biology combined with complex behavioral phenotyping in mice to better understand the mechanics of drug addiction. The group also investigates brain reward pathways in obesity and is working to develop novel small molecule therapeutics for addiction.
Kenny received his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Trinity College Dublin in 1996 and his Ph.D. in neuropharmacology at King’s College London in 2000. His studies focused on understanding the role of nicotinic receptors in regulating anxiety-like behaviors in rodents. This work piqued his interest in the neurobiology of nicotine addiction in tobacco smokers and the broader role for nicotinic receptors in addiction and other psychiatric illnesses.
He completed his postdoctoral training at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., in the laboratory of Dr. Athina Markou, where he worked on understanding the role of glutamate transmission in nicotine dependence. In collaboration with George Koob at Scripps, he investigated the neurobiology of compulsive- like cocaine intake in rats with extended access to the drug. He established his own laboratory at Scripps in Florida in 2006. He has published in Nature, Nature Neuroscience and Nature Medicine and has received several young investigator awards.