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Acclaimed Neuroscientist to Head Center for Neurobiology Research at Fralin Biomedical Institute

Anthony-Samuel LaMantia, a developmental neurobiologist and a professor at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC, has been named the new director of the institute’s Center for Neurobiology Research, according to Michael Friedlander, executive director of the research institute and Virginia Tech vice president for health sciences and technology.

LaMantia will begin on July 1 in his new role, which includes guiding early career faculty and further integrating the cellular and molecular neuroscience research enterprise at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute.

“Dr. LaMantia’s track record of leadership in neuroscience research and education provides him with valuable perspective to integrate the work of trainees, students, early career faculty and established senior faculty,” Friedlander said. “He is a nationally prominent, developmental neurogeneticist and an outstanding educator and mentor with a track record of making important contributions to understanding brain development and for connecting people. His career exemplifies the quality research and educational efforts that are emblematic of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute.”

Formerly the director of the George Washington University Institute for Neuroscience, LaMantia is recognized for revealing the genetic underpinnings of complex developmental disorders in children.

His work has illuminated the earliest causes of multiple profound developmental disorders in children, including research into a complex disorder of brain, heart, and facial developmental disabilities.

“The Center for Neurobiology Research comprises an exceptional group of scientists,” LaMantia said. “The Fralin Biomedical Research Institute’s vision is to support and encourage early career faculty to interact with more senior scientists around the problems created by neurological and behavioral diseases. By identifying an important problem that can be attacked by a large group, we use everybody’s specific interest in a joint effort to generate something new and innovative.”

LaMantia said he will seek to capitalize on group funding opportunities and encourage the pursuit of collaborative research studies.

“We want younger faculty to nucleate their careers while enabling them to be part of something larger, with a shared purpose,” said LaMantia, who is also a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Virginia Tech’s College of Science. “It is an exciting, dual responsibility to enable scientists to develop their careers and to create an identity for the diverse research activity at the institute.”

The Center for Neurobiology Research will continue providing a major component of neuroscience education and mentoring for the Translational Biology, Medicine, and Health Graduate Program and the institute’s Pioneers in Biomedical Research seminar series.

LaMantia will replace Michael Fox, a professor at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute, as director of the Center for Neurobiology Research. Fox is transitioning into a new role as director of the School of Neuroscience at the Virginia Tech College of Science, and he will continue his research program at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute.

Early in his career, LaMantia explored how nerve fibers called axons develop to connect the two hemispheres of the cerebral cortex, creating new methods to observe neural circuits in living systems in the process. He also helped develop some of the earliest techniques for imaging living nerve cells as they make their connections in the developing brain over time.

LaMantia will continue his work on the interface of genetic mutations that cause neurodevelopmental disorders in children and the role of the mutant genes in building brain circuits in the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute’s newly established Laboratory for Developmental Disorders and Genetics.

LaMantia received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago and his doctoral degree from Yale University. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Washington University School Medicine in St. Louis, before becoming an assistant professor at Duke University Medical Center, and associate professor then full professor at the University North Carolina School Medicine, Chapel Hill.

LaMantia currently serves on the editorial boards of several leading journals, including Gene Expression, Developmental Neuroscience and Synapse, and served for more than a decade as senior reviewing editor for the journal Cerebral Cortex.

He also serves as the principal investigator on two major National Institutes of Health grants, including a $2.2 million grant on “Genes in Embryonic and Adult Forebrain” and a $6.2 million program project grant on the Pathology, Developmental Origins, and Prevention of Pediatric Dysphagia.

His work has also been supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, The National Down Syndrome Society, The March of Dimes, The National Alliance for Research in Schizophrenia and Affective Disorders (NARSAD), and the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative.

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