Anantha Shekhar, MD, PhD, is senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and John and Gertrude Petersen Dean of the School of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. He is a nationally recognized educator, researcher, and entrepreneur with major contributions in medicine and life sciences.
At Pitt, Dr. Shekhar leads all six health sciences schools that, for more than a century, have been educational and research leaders in their respective fields, propelling scientific discovery and clinical innovation that advance human health. Education at the Schools of the Health Sciences—Dental Medicine, Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, and Public Health—emphasizes interdisciplinary instruction and leadership that incorporates the most advanced techniques and technologies to prepare future researchers, physicians, and health care providers and administrators for careers of leadership and service.
Our mission, first and foremost, is to educate the finest clinicians and investigators; and to be successful in either—or, in some cases, both—of these ventures requires nothing less than outstanding creativity, compassion, and leadership.
Dr. Shekhar’s responsibilities at the University of Pittsburgh include shaping the careers of more than 6,000 faculty and staff members, as well as the academic success of approximately 5,000 students annually, all while supporting Pitt’s position as a top-ranked recipient of NIH research dollars. He also works closely with UPMC, one of the largest academic medical centers in the nation, to ensure that health care delivery, biomedical research, and education—already among the nation’s elite—continue to flourish.
Innovation, transformation, and sweeping and successful collaborations across the private, public, and philanthropic sectors have defined Dr. Shekhar’s distinguished career, which spanned more than three decades at Indiana University School of Medicine (IUSM) and Indiana University Health before he began his leadership roles at the University of Pittsburgh in June 2020.
Dr. Shekhar’s areas of expertise include basic and clinical research on the effects of stress, stress-induced psychiatric and medical conditions, and clinical psychopharmacology. His laboratory has developed some of the best translational models for panic and related anxiety disorders. His work focuses on the role of brain abnormalities that could lead to stress and psychiatric disorders and to the discovery of new treatments. He has directed phase I and phase II studies in healthy and diseased populations and biomarker studies using physiological and brain imaging methods.
Dr. Shekhar has also initiated several Investigational New Drug applications; and he has conducted many pharmacokinetic, pharmacogenetic, and phase III studies of novel compounds in the treatment of anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorders.
A number of grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), private foundations, and commercial collaborations have supported his research; and, overall, he has published more than 200 original scientific papers in leading basic science and clinical journals.
A brief sampling of Dr. Shekhar’s many leadership and career accomplishments, before arriving at the University of Pittsburgh, include:
- Cofounded or led five biotech companies, including Anagin, a startup company that is developing treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, neuropathic pain, depression, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Provided a new approach to treating schizophrenia—after demonstrating a novel mechanism of action, the first in more than 70 years—that is under development.
- Formed two commercial incubators—one for therapeutics and another for medical devices—that currently host more than 15 companies in various stages of commercialization.
- Served as founding director of the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CTSI)—a statewide institute within IUSM supported by an NIH Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) grant—which was established in 2008. The partnership includes Indiana, Purdue, and Notre Dame Universities. Dr. Shekhar, in conjunction with being director of the Indiana University Precision Health Initiative, focused on transforming biomedical research, health care innovations, and the delivery of health interventions to enhance the prevention, treatment, and health outcomes of human diseases through a more precise analysis of the genetic, developmental, behavioral, and environmental factors that shape an individual’s health.
- Was part of a leadership group that delivered curriculum reform at IUSM (the largest medical school in the United States), which included expanding opportunities for every medical student to engage in research and scholarly work and also included developing a center for inter-professional education that established a common core curriculum for all health sciences schools and their learners.
- Grew IUSM’s research funding from the NIH by 73% from 2015-2020.
Dr. Shekhar is an elected member of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Forum on Drug Discovery, Development, and Translation. The forum provides a unique platform for dialogue and collaboration among thought leaders in government, academia, industry, foundations, and disease and patient advocacy groups, serving as a catalyst for nurturing new ideas and partnerships to advance critical policy discussions on biopharmaceutical innovation at the global level. Dr. Shekhar has also served on the Executive Committee of NIH’s CTSA Consortium, as a member of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Board of Scientific Advisors, as a member of the Advisory Council for the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) and the Cures Acceleration Network at NIH, as a member of the Board of Advisors of the Clinical Research Center on the NIH campus, and as the founding president of the Association for Clinical Translational Sciences.
Dr. Shekhar, who was born in India, earned his medical degree at St. John’s Medical College and PhD in neuroscience at Indiana University. He and his wife, Gina Laite, MD, have two children.