Prof. Kim Q. Do trained as a chemist and neurobiologist; she is head of the Unit for Research in Schizophrenia (URS, Center for Psychiatric Neuroscience, Department of Psychiatry, Lausanne University Hospital), and was director of the Center for Psychiatric Neuroscience between 2013 and 2019.Her major interest lies in bridging basic neuroscience with problems of clinical psychiatry.
In 1999, she set up the URS laboratory and developed an interdisciplinary, translational approach promoting active collaboration between researchers in basic neurobiology and clinicians. Her research program is aimed at a better understanding of the causes and mechanisms leading to schizophrenia phenotypes in order to develop markers for early diagnosis, new drug targets as well as preventive and therapeutic measures.
Her work pioneered the involvement of a pathophysiological “hub” in which oxidative stress/redox dysregulation interacts with NMDAR hypofunction, neuroinflammation and dopamine imbalance, leading to the impairment of neural connectivity and synchronization, and to cognitive deficits as observed in patients. Using various experimental models relevant to schizophrenia and autism, her group demonstrated that oxidative stress during brain development leads to the impairment of myelin formation, and selectively affects the circuitry of prefrontal parvalbumine GABA interneurons.
Based on these relevant neurobiological data and in close collaboration with Prof. Philippe Conus (Service of General Psychiatry, Lausanne University Hospital), Prof. Do spearheaded a clinical study in which a precursor of glutathione (GSH), called N-acetylcysteine (NAC), was administered to chronic patients. This double blind, placebo controlled add-on clinical trial with NAC showed a net improvement in negative symptoms, in auditory evoked potentials (mismatch negativity), neural synchronization and produced no side effects. Following this exciting proof of concept, she initiated a clinical trial with young first-episode patients, revealing that NAC increased brain GSH levels, improved neurocognition, fornix white matter integrity, and functional connectivity. More importantly, in a subgroup of patients with a high blood oxidative marker, NAC improved positive symptoms, in parallel with changes in the peripheral redox status.
Prof. Do's translational research thus paves the way for promising biomarker guided treatments and prevention. Her lab is currently investigating biomarkers for early detection, and developing innovative therapeutics to rescue the identified brain impairments and impact the emergence of mental disorders.
In addition to her research activities, Prof. Kim Q. Do also works on professional education and public outreach towards better care and cure of major psychiatric disorders. Furthermore, she has established fruitful collaboration with researchers in the United States, Canada, Brazil, Australia, China and several European countries.
Prof. Do has authored over 350 scientific publications, is serving on the editorial boards of several journals in the field of biological psychiatry, and sat on advisory/evaluation committees of many institutions, among which the Swiss National Science Foundation (CH), Fondation pour la Recherche Médicale (F), The Wellcome Trust (UK), Medical Research Council (UK), National Institute of Health (USA), and National Science Foundation (USA). She is member of the Executive Committee of the Schizophrenia International Research Society (SIRS) and the Swiss Society of Biological Psychiatry (SSBP) as well as member of the ECNP Review Board (European College of Neuropsychopharmacology).
Prof. Do received the NARSAD Independent Investigator Award from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation (USA) in 2006, and the NARSAD Distinguished Investigator Award in 2010. In 2014, she was elected Individual Member of the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences (SAMS) due to her exceptional scientific performance in medicine. In 2018, she received the SIRS Outstanding Basic Science Award from the Schizophrenia International Research Society (SIRS) as well as the Elsevier SeniorSchizophrenia ResearchAward from the American publisher Elsevier.
Inaugural Lesson of Prof. Kim Do Cuénod as full professor, February 15th, 2018 / Plenary Conference given at the ECNP Congress 2016 / Interview recorded at the ECNP Congress 2016 / Video on translational research program produced at the request of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) / Webinar Neuroscience Virtual Conference Live, Labroots Science Network, USA / Inaugural Lesson of Prof. Kim Do Cuénod as associate professor, April 8th, 2014