John I. Nurnberger, Jr. completed his BS in psychology from Fordham University before receiving his MD and PhD from Indiana University. He completed his Residency in Psychiatry at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center and became a Medical Staff Fellow at the National Institute of Mental Health, where he stayed for nine years, becoming a Tenured Staff Scientist and Acting Unit Chief in the Clinical Neurogenetics Branch of the NIMH Intramural Research Program. In 1986, he was recruited back to Indiana to head the Institute of Psychiatric Research at the IU School of Medicine.
Nurnberger "has distinguished himself as a world authority in the genetics of bipolar disorder and alcoholism and THE international expert in the intersection of these two disabling conditions." He is "a key international leader" and "pioneer" and his work has moved the field of psychiatric genetics from a peripheral position in biological psychiatry to a central position in our understanding of the neurobiological basis of brain disorders. Dr. Nurnberger was one of the first investigators to recognize the role of comorbidity in the genetics of major psychiatric disorders, including addictive disorders. Bipolar Disorder genetic studies pioneered by Nurnberger include the area of high risk studies, or the study of adolescents with bipolar parents; a key method to understand predictive variables. His research shows various childhood disorders to be particular risk factors for bipolar illness. He is now combining multiple genetic markers to develop polygenic risk scores for these disorders. This line of work can revolutionize clinical efforts at prevention and early management for bipolar disorder.
John has been "a major generative force" in the field of psychiatric Genetics. He started the first specialty journal in the area in 1989 (Psychiatric Genetics) and was co-founder of the International Society of Psychiatric Genetics (ISPG) in 1993. Nurnberger's nearly 450 publications include 48 with more than 100 citations and 7 with more than 500 citations and have collectively garnered over 20,000 citations and an h-index of 71. He has "contributed substantially to bringing psychiatry into the age of molecular medicine and making psychiatric genetics into a rigorous discipline." Dr. Nurnberger's work has been funded continuously for 25 years by both the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. He has served as a reviewer and site visitor for genetic and neurobiological research programs in Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Sweden, Spain, Germany, the countries of the European Union, and Israel.
He has received a National Science Foundation Fellowship, the Glenn W. Irwin, Jr. M.D. Research Award, the Elliot Freidson Outstanding Publication Award of the American Sociological Association, the Snow and Ming Tsuang Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Distinguished Life Fellowship of the American Psychiatric Association. He is an elected Fellow of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology and he is consistently listed among Indianapolis Monthly's Top Doctors and Top Doctors in the US (Men's Health and Women's Health).