NINDS names Byrne Javits Award recipient

By Darla Brown, Office of Communications

Dr. John Byrne - Javits Award
John Byrne, PhD

John Byrne, PhD, professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy, associate dean for Research, June and Virgil Waggoner Chair, director of the UTHealth Houston Neuroscience Center, is a recipient of the 2023 Javits Investigator Award from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

The Javits Award (R37) is a conditional, seven-year research grant given to scientists for their superior competence and outstanding productivity. Javits Awards provide long-term support to investigators with a history of exceptional talent, imagination, and preeminent scientific achievement.

Byrne received the award for his grant, “Analysis of the Neural Control of Behavior,” which has been continuously funded by the NINDS since 1976. There are only two of the 2,994 NINDS R01-type grants with a longer funding cycle. Byrne previously received the Javits award in 1986.

“Congratulations to Dr. Byrne on his second win of the Javits Award,” said Executive Dean John Hancock. “This award is a testament to the importance of his research and its long-lasting impact.”

The overall goal of Byrne’s research is to achieve a quantitative understanding of the biochemical dynamics that underlie induction of long-term synaptic changes, and with this knowledge develop strategies for improving memory and rescuing deficits in long-term memory.

Investigators do not apply for a Javits Award. Nominations for this award are made by NINDS staff and by members of the NANDS Council. These nominations are then reviewed by the director, NINDS and the NANDS Council. All Javits nominations must be approved by the NANDS Council prior to their award.

The Javits awards were established by Congress in 1983 to honor the late Sen. Jacob Javits (R-NY), who was afflicted with ALS and was a strong advocate for research in a variety of brain and nervous system disorders.

“It is a tremendous honor to be the recipient of this award,” Byrne said. “I am deeply grateful to the NINDS for their enormous support over the years and to UTHealth for providing the environment that has allowed my research to flourish.”

Byrne earned his PhD in bioengineering from the NYU Tandon School of Engineering. His mentor was Eric Kandel, MD, a 2000 Nobel Prize recipient for his cellular work on memory. Following his PhD, Byrne worked with Kandel at Columbia University as a postdoctoral fellow. Byrne joined the Medical School faculty in 1982 as an associate professor in the Department of Physiology and Cell Biology and was named professor and chair of the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy in 1987 – a role he retained until 2018.