Dr. Darrell Brann, Regents’ Professor and vice chair of the Department of Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, has been named the inaugural Virendra B. Mahesh, PhD, DPhil Distinguished Chair in Neuroscience.
The Mahesh chair honors Dr. Virendra Mahesh, Regents Professor and chairman emeritus, who founded the PhD program in the Department of Endocrinology, where he served as chairman from 1972-86. He also chaired the MCG Department of Physiology and Endocrinology from 1986-99. The chair supports a faculty member who conducts state-of-the-art basic science research in the MCG Department of Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine. Current neuroscience research at MCG is closest to Mahesh’s research interests.
Brann’s research has made significant contributions to the understanding of the signaling mechanisms and actions of estrogen in the brain, how they help neurons survive and how it regulates the ability of synapses to strengthen or weaken over time. He is principal investigator on a $1.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to help elucidate the roles of the enzyme aromatase and estrogen in brain injury and health and, ideally, point toward therapies that can augment the brain’s effort to heal.
His research has led to the publication of over 175 peer reviewed articles in leading journals in his field and he has been continuously funded by the NIH throughout his career, as well as supported by a VA Merit Award. He has served on the editorial boards of top-tier journals like PLoS One and Brain Disorders & Therapy and is a past member of the NIH’s Integrative and Clinical Endocrinology and Reproduction Study Section. From 2009-12, he also chaired the American Heart Association’s Brain Region II Study Section.
Brann received the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award from the university’s Research Institute, its highest honor. Also director of the university’s Graduate Program in Neuroscience, he previously served as associate director of both the Institute of Molecular Medicine and Genetics and the Institute of Neuroscience.
Since 2005, he has supported graduate students at the university through the Darrell W. Brann Scholarship in Neuroscience Award, which he established to provide an annual scholarship to an outstanding neuroscience graduate student. In 2010, he also established the Brann Alumni Scholarship Award, which provides 2-3 scholarships each year to outstanding biomedical PhD students in any discipline.
Brann received his PhD in endocrinology with distinction in 1990 from MCG, where he also completed a postdoctoral fellowship in neuroendocrinology.
Mahesh, a trailblazer in the study of the biochemistry of steroids and reproductive biology, came to MCG in 1959 as an assistant research professor. Six years later he established the endocrinology PhD program, which was funded by a National Institutes of Health training grant for 34 years. Mahesh’s research was funded by the NIH for 40 years, resulting in more than 470 scientific publications. His focus was establishing new methods for the diagnosis and treatment of reproductive disorders in women and discovering new knowledge of the complex interaction between ovarian hormones and centers of the brain and their control of ovulation.