Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Names Inaugural Director of Developmental Neurogenetics Program Within the Institute for the Developing Mind

Published on 
May 3, 2013

Pat Levitt, PhD, international autism expert, will lead research into the role of genes and the environment on the developing brain

CONTACT FOR MEDIA: Ellin Kavanagh, (323) 361-8505

The internationally renowned expert in neurodevelopmental disorders, Pat Levitt, PhD, will serve as inaugural director of the Developmental Neurogenetics Program of the newly created Institute for the Developing Mind within The Saban Research Institute of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.


Dr Leavitt
“Dr. Levitt, an international expert in neurodevelopmental disorders, represents a significant recruitment to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and an important milestone for the Institute for the Developing Mind,” says Richard D. Cordova, FACHE, president and CEO of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.“We are pleased to welcome a scientist of his stature to this important role.”

The Institute for the Developing Mind, envisioned to become an internationally recognized center for innovative research, diagnosis and treatment of neurodevelopmental and behavioral disorders, will provide comprehensive, interdisciplinary research and clinical services at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, the University of Southern California (USC) and the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

“With Dr. Levitt’s recruitment to the Institute of The Developing Mind, we begin a new chapter in our commitment to improving the lives of children with neurodevelopmental disorders. One in three families are affected by behavioral or neurodevelopmental disorders in children. As this story unfolds we expect the program to provide a better understanding of the relationship between genetics and environmental influences on the development of behavior and cognitive function,” says Brent Polk, MD, director of The Saban Research Institute and professor of Pediatrics and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

As a leader within the Institute, Dr. Levitt will establish a new program in Developmental Neurogenetics, initiating innovative basic and clinical research focused on understanding the role of genes and the environment in brain development.  His work holds the promise of identifying how these factors come together to influence brain architecture, and how alterations in this process can cause brain disorders in children. 

“In this leadership role, Dr. Levitt will collaborate with colleagues in brain imaging and behavioral neuroscience to discover new strategies to identify children who are at risk for neurodevelopmental disorders and deliver individualized treatment and preventive care that creates immediate impact and long-lasting positive outcomes,” says Michele Kipke, PhD, division chief, Research on Children, Youth and Families and vice chair of Research in the Department of Pediatrics.

Dr. Levitt will join the Department of Pediatrics as provost professor of Pediatrics, Neuroscience, Psychiatry and Pharmacy in the Keck School of Medicine, and Psychology at the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences of USC.  He will continue to direct the Neuroscience Graduate Program at USC and will also spearhead an initiative to develop and lead an interdisciplinary autism center, bringing together experts from across the three campuses of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and USC.

“Pat Levitt’s dedication to students and education has made him an invaluable resource for our students,” says Carmen A. Puliafito, MD, MBA, dean of the Keck School of Medicine. “Autism is one of the most compelling study areas in neuroscience, and in his new position Dr. Levitt will serve as an important guide to numerous young researchers searching for solutions to this complex disorder.”

Throughout his career, Dr. Levitt’s research has focused on the role of genes and the environment on the developing circuitry of the brain, the molecular and developmental basis of neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders, schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorders.  His research has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health since 1983.  Dr. Levitt received a Bachelor of Arts degree in biology from the University of Chicago and a doctorate in neuroscience from the University of California, San Diego.  He completed a post-doctoral fellowship in neuroanatomy at Yale University School of Medicine.  Prior to his arrival at USC in 2009, Dr. Levitt held academic appointments at several medical centers and leadership positions at the University of Pittsburgh and Vanderbilt University.  He is a Quintiles Senior Fellow at the USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics, scientific director of the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child and senior fellow at the Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University.

Dr. Levitt has authored more than 180 peer-reviewed scientific articles and more than 65 scholarly books, monographs and reviews.  Throughout his career, he has provided leadership to numerous committees and boards, including his current membership on the research advisory board for the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network.  Dr. Levitt is a frequent lecturer on autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders at the community, national and international level.

About Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Children's Hospital Los Angeles has been named the best children’s hospital in California and among the top five in the nation for clinical excellence with its selection to the prestigious U.S. News & World Report Honor Roll. Children’s Hospital is home to The Saban Research Institute, one of the largest and most productive pediatric research facilities in the United States. Children’s Hospital is also one of America's premier teaching hospitals through its affiliation since 1932 with the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California.

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