BUSM Pharmacology Professor Wins Women in Neuroscience’s Lifetime Achievement Award

Contact: Kristen Perfetuo, 617-638-8491 | kristen.perfetuo@bmc.org

(Boston) – Susan E. Leeman, PhD, professor of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and prominent member of the National Academy of Science, recently won the Committee on Women in Neuroscience’s (C-WIN) prestigious 2005 Mika Salpeter Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition for her outstanding achievements as a scientist, teacher and mentor.

Sponsored by the Society for Neuroscience (SfN), the award recognizes individuals who have significantly promoted the professional advancement of women in the field of neuroscience. Leeman was presented the award on Nov. 14 during the SfN’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

A graduate of Goucher College in Baltimore, Md., Leeman earned her doctorate in Physiology at Radcliffe College in 1958. She became an instructor in the Physiology Department at Harvard Medical School and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in neurochemistry at Brandeis University in 1962. While at Brandeis, Leeman worked as a senior research associate and later became an assistant research professor in the Graduate Department of Biochemistry. She then returned to Harvard Medical School as a faculty member of the Physiology Department.
Before coming to BUSM in 1992, Leeman was director of the Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program and professor of physiology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Leeman is most notably recognized for her discovery in the 1970’s of two biological properties in extracts of brain that enabled her and her colleagues to isolate and chemically characterize two peptides. The first was called substance P and the second she named neurotensin. These discoveries opened two new fields of research in neuropeptide biology that have attracted the attention of thousands of neuroscientists around the world. Since then, more than 25,000 research papers have been published on these two peptides.

Over the years, Leeman has contributed to enlarging the understanding of the diverse physiological roles of substance P and neurotensin. Both peptides have been implicated in various psychiatric, neurodegenerative, gastrointestinal and infectious diseases, including Alzheimer’s Disease, Huntington’s Disease, Crohn’s Disease, ulcerative colitis, diabetes, reproductive pathologies and various cancers. The pharmaceutical industry, recognizing the clinical usefulness of interrupting the function of these peptides, has developed drugs for human use to block their actions. One medication, Emend, is now used to treat post-chemotherapy nausea.

Leeman remains actively engaged in her research investigating the roles of substance P and neurotensin, particularly in relation to their participation in inflammatory and disease processes.