A lecture series established with a gift from the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Fund for the Arts and Sciences will bring a leading neuroscientist to the School of Medicine each year to speak and to exchange ideas with faculty and students.

The lectureship, named The Raymond and Beverly Sackler Visiting Professor and Lecturer, in Tribute to Julius Axelrod, Ph.D., honors a prolific scientist and Nobel laureate whose laboratory at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) was the site of several seminal discoveries in neuroscience. Most notably, Axelrod and his colleagues were the first to describe the synapse-clearing process known as neurotransmitter reuptake, a mechanism that is targeted by many modern psychiatric drugs, including Prozac and Zoloft.

Visiting speakers in the Sackler lecture series will be sponsored by the interdepartmental program in Cellular Neuroscience, Neurodegeneration and Repair (CNNR), a new initiative to bring basic science to bear on neurological disease that was launched by the School of Medicine in January.

“It has been our experience that visiting professors and lecturers enhance the scientific exchange with faculty and students, stimulating creative research,” says Raymond R. Sackler, M.D., co-founder of Purdue Pharma of Stamford, Conn.

“The Sacklers have a long tradition of philanthropy that is really worldwide, extending from the University of Cambridge in England all the way to Tel Aviv University in Israel—not to mention the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the British Museum,” says Dean Robert J. Alpern, M.D. “They’ve also supported a number of programs here at Yale, and we’re very appreciative of that.”

Axelrod, who died in 2004, was a productive scientist for more than 20 years before he returned to graduate school after-hours to receive his Ph.D. degree from George Washington University at age 42. He moved to the NIMH at about the same time, and went on to do the work that earned him the Nobel Prize. “F. Scott Fitzgerald once stated that there are no second acts in American lives,” Axelrod wrote in a 1988 memoir. “After a mediocre first act, my second act was a smash.”