Published: 28-09-2022 12:59 | Updated: 28-09-2022 14:24

Sophie Erhardt receives The 2022 Brain & Behavior Research Foundation Maltz Prize

Picture of Sophie Erhardt sitting at her desk in the office
Photo: Ulf Sirborn

Professor Sophie Erhardt at the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology receives The 2022 Brain & Behavior Research Foundation Maltz Prize of $40,000 for innovative and promising schizophrenia research.

Sophie, can you tell us about the prize you have received?

– The 2022 Brain & Behavior Research Foundation Maltz Prize is a highly recognitioned prize for Innovative and Promising Research in Schizophrenia.

What does it mean for you and your research to get this prize?

– This is a major international recognition for the line of research our group has conducted over the years. When we started researching kynurenic acid, no one believed that this substance had any function of importance in the brain. We have shown that kynurenic acid is of paramount importance in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia and of cognitive impairment, especially under immune-induced conditions. About five years ago, we identified an important mechanism for how kynurenic acid is produced in excess in these conditions. In recent years, we have therefore, together with the Drug Discovery and Development (DDD) platform at Science for Life Laboratory (SciLifeLab) invested large resources in developing molecules that can prevent its synthesis. We have now come so far that we have molecules that hit the right target, do what it is supposed to in cell models (lower the concentration of immune-induced kynurenic acid) and pass the blood-brain barrier.

What happens now?

– Now we start a company, patent the molecules and discuss with investors. For this we get excellent support from KI Innovation.

How is the prize ceremony conducted?

– There will be a large ceremony in New York at the end of October with an associated seminar and awards dinner. The seminar is broadcast and it is free to register. I get to invite my husband Göran Engberg, children and my parents. And Lilly Schwieler of course, long standing collaborator and key person for our drug discovery project.