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Children’s Hospital names director of developmental neurogenetics

Pat Levitt will establish a new program in developmental neurogenetics at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

Pat Levitt, an internationally renowned expert in neurodevelopmental disorders, will serve as inaugural director of the Developmental Neurogenetics Program of the newly created Institute for the Developing Mind within The Saban Research Institute of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA).

“Dr. Levitt, an international expert in neurodevelopmental disorders, represents a significant recruitment to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and an important milestone for the Institute for the Developing Mind,” said Richard Cordova, president and CEO of CHLA. “We are pleased to welcome a scientist of his stature to this important role.”

The Institute for the Developing Mind, envisioned to become an internationally recognized center for innovative research, diagnosis and treatment of neurodevelopmental and behavioral disorders, will provide comprehensive, interdisciplinary research and clinical services at CHLA, USC and the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

“With Dr. Levitt’s recruitment to the Institute of the Developing Mind, we begin a new chapter in our commitment to improving the lives of children with neurodevelopmental disorders,” said Brent Polk, director of The Saban Research Institute and professor of pediatrics and biochemistry and molecular biology at the Keck School of Medicine. “One in three families are affected by behavioral or neurodevelopmental disorders in children. As this story unfolds, we expect the program to provide a better understanding of the relationship between genetics and environmental influences on the development of behavior and cognitive function.”

Levitt, Provost Professor of Neuroscience, Psychiatry, Psychology & Pharmacy, will establish a new program in developmental neurogenetics, initiating innovative basic and clinical research focused on understanding the role of genes and the environment in brain development. His work holds the promise of identifying how these factors come together to influence brain architecture and how alterations in this process can cause brain disorders in children.

“In this leadership role, Dr. Levitt will collaborate with colleagues in brain imaging and behavioral neuroscience to discover new strategies to identify children who are at risk for neurodevelopmental disorders and deliver individualized treatment and preventive care that creates immediate impact and long-lasting positive outcomes,” said Michele Kipke, division chief of Research on Children, Youth and Families and vice chair of research in the Department of Pediatrics.

Levitt will join the Department of Pediatrics as provost professor of pediatrics, neuroscience, psychiatry and pharmacy at the Keck School and psychology at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. He will continue to direct the Neuroscience Graduate Program at USC and will also spearhead an initiative to develop and lead an interdisciplinary autism center, bringing together experts from across the three campuses of CHLA and USC.

“Pat Levitt’s dedication to students and education has made him an invaluable resource for our students,” said Carmen A. Puliafito, dean of the Keck School. “Autism is one of the most compelling study areas in neuroscience, and in his new position Dr. Levitt will serve as an important guide to numerous young researchers searching for solutions to this complex disorder.”

Throughout his career, Levitt’s research has focused on the role of genes and the environment on the developing circuitry of the brain, the molecular and developmental basis of neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders, schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorders. His research has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health since 1983.

Levitt received a Bachelor of Arts in biology from the University of Chicago and a doctorate in neuroscience from the University of California, San Diego. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship in neuroanatomy at the Yale University School of Medicine. Prior to his arrival at USC in 2009, Levitt held academic appointments at several medical centers and leadership positions at the University of Pittsburgh and Vanderbilt University. He is a Quintiles Senior Fellow at the Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics at USC, scientific director of the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child and senior fellow at the Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University.

He has authored more than 180 peer-reviewed scientific articles and more than 65 scholarly books, monographs and reviews. Throughout his career, he has provided leadership to numerous committees and boards, including his current membership on the research advisory board for the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network. Levitt is a frequent lecturer on autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders at the community, national and international level.

Children’s Hospital names director of developmental neurogenetics

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