University of Minnesota Hires Benjamin Saunders to Medical Discovery Team on Addiction

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Naomi McDonald, Director of Communications
August 21, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL (August 21, 2017) – The University of Minnesota Medical School today announced that Benjamin Saunders, Ph.D. has accepted a faculty position in the Department of Neuroscience and is now a member of the Medical Discovery Team (MDT) on Addiction.

“We are delighted to have Dr. Saunders join the MDT on Addiction,” said Dr. Tim Ebner, Head of the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Minnesota Medical School. “Ben studies how the brain regions that regulate motivation are affected by drug addiction. By understanding the changes that occur to these circuits following the abuse of addictive drugs, we can hope to target and reverse these changes, ultimately transforming an ‘addicted brain’ to one that is not addicted to drugs.”

Dr. Saunders is a currently a post-doctoral research fellow at Johns Hopkins University. He holds both a K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award, given to top young scientists in their field, and has also received a highly prestigious NARSAD Young Investigator Grant. His research has been published in top scientific journals including Biological Psychiatry, Neuropsychopharmacology, and the Journal of Neuroscience. Dr. Saunders received his PhD at the University of Michigan.

“In the biomedical research community we are at the cusp of developing the kind of understanding that might lead to reliable treatments for addiction, but the investment of research funds and intellectual capital is critical,” said Saunders. “This makes the Medical Discovery Team on Addiction at the University of Minnesota so important and exciting to me, because of the clear dedication to alleviating this problem. I am thrilled and honored to join such an innovative and passionate set of researchers in the MDT and larger community at UMN. I believe this team, with such a cutting edge, collaborative approach to brain science, will make a substantial contribution to the treatment of addiction and related psychiatric diseases.”

The overarching vision of the Medical Discovery Team on Addiction is to link basic research to new therapeutic approaches to treating substance abuse. The MDT is a multi-departmental endeavor across the University of Minnesota Medical School to advance research and treatment in the field of drug addiction.

“Thanks to the support the Governor and state lawmakers, the State of Minnesota has appropriated significant funds over the next ten years for the Medical School to create a world-class, neuroscience-based program for the study and treatment of addiction,” said Brooks Jackson, Dean of the Medical School and Vice President for the Health Sciences. “As part of this team, Dr. Saunders will conduct research to address the problems addicts face when they are unable to stop taking drugs, even though the negative consequences are severe.”

The Medical Discovery Team on Addiction is recruiting up to ten basic scientists and physician-scientists from diverse disciplines, including Neuroscience, Neurology, Pharmacology, Psychiatry, and Radiology. Dr. Saunders will join the University of Minnesota in June 2018.

About the University of Minnesota Medical School
The University of Minnesota Medical School is at the forefront of learning and discovery, transforming medical care and educating the next generation of physicians. Our graduates and faculty produce high-impact biomedical research and advance the practice of medicine. Visit med.umn.edu to learn how the University of Minnesota is innovating all aspects of medicine.

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