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In Memoriam: Edgar “Ned” Buttner, MD, PhD

October 27, 2015 Print

It is with deep sadness that we announce that Edgar “Ned” Buttner, MD, PhD, a gifted researcher and generous colleague, passed away on October 15, 2015, after a valiant battle with leukemia and its consequences. He was 53.

Edgar "Ned" Buttner, MD, PhD
Edgar “Ned” Buttner, MD, PhD,

Dr. Buttner was the director of the Pharmacogenomics Section of the Molecular Pharmacology Laboratory and, subsequently, director of the Neurogenomics Laboratory in the Program for Neuropsychiatric Research at McLean Hospital.

With a keen interest in helping others, Dr. Buttner dedicated his career, using a C. elegans model system, to investigating psychoses and neurodegenerative disorders and, especially, the effects that a variety of antipsychotic medications and genes related to illness have on brain function and behavior. His novel work implicated previously unknown molecular mechanisms underlying the effects of antipsychotic drugs. He had recently implemented new studies of the biological pathways that lead to ALS and other late life nervous system impairments, such as Alzheimer’s disease. These findings may eventually lead to the development of new and more effective interventions to prevent or treat brain disorders.

“Ned Buttner was an exemplary and deeply valued friend and colleague,” said Bruce M. Cohen, MD, PhD, director of the Program for Neuropsychiatric Research and the Robertson-Steele Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “He was an outstanding scientist, who successfully applied an innovative system to identify the causes of illness and new modes of treatment. He was an exceptionally decent and caring man, beloved by his staff, his co-investigators, and his family. His passing, especially in the midst of such an active life and career, is a great loss.”

In addition to his research, Dr. Buttner actively participated in neurology rounds at McLean and served as a mentor to a number of postdoctoral researchers within the Neurogenomics Laboratory. During his career, his work garnered several awards including the Augustus S. Rose Award for Excellence in Teaching at UCLA and Brain & Behavior Research Foundation Young Investigator Awards.

Dr. Buttner earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Williams College and both his PhD and MD from Columbia University–Presbyterian Medical Center. He completed his residency in neurology at the University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center. Prior to joining the McLean staff, Dr. Buttner was a post-doctoral research fellow in the Department of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was also a research associate in the Department of Psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School (with Dr. Francine Benes) and a research associate in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard University (with Dr. C.P. Hunter). Following these positions, he was most recently an instructor in psychiatry (neuropsychiatry) at Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Buttner was an Eagle Scout and remained an accomplished athlete throughout his life. He was a skier, a member of several ultimate Frisbee teams, a marathon runner, a hiker and a black belt in the martial arts.

He was deeply loved by friends and family alike for his infectious laugh and his ability to listen carefully and render exceedingly thoughtful, well-balanced, consistently loving comments, as well as for his devotion to those in his care and employ. Dr. Buttner is survived by his parents, two sisters, his wife and his three children. His five year old daughter paid him the highest compliment last week saying, “Daddy always spoke so kindly.