James A. Waschek, Ph.D.


Professor, Adult Psychiatry

Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior

Contact Information

Work Phone Number: 310-825-0179

Laboratory Address:

James A. Waschek, Ph.D.
635 Charles E. Young Dr. South
Los Angeles, CA 90095


Dr. Waschek is a Professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Science at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), and is an expert in the molecular and cellular biology and physiological actions of neuropeptides. Dr. Waschek received a Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Chemistry in 1984 from the University of California at San Francisco, after which he took a postdoctoral position at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In 1988 he came to UCLA, where his research has centered on three broad, but related topics: 1) CNS development, degeneration, injury, and repair, 2) neuroinflammatory conditions such as multiple sclerosis, and maternal inflammation-induced perinatal white matter disease, and 3) brain tumor pathogenesis. A past and continuing objective has been to better understand the biological roles of neuropeptides in these processes, especially the two related peptides PACAP and VIP (pituitary adenylyl cyclase activating peptide and vasoactive intestinal peptide, respectively). A major contribution in this area was his discovery first reported in 1998 that PACAP and functional PACAP receptors are highly expressed in the murine neural tube and other germinal centers, and that PACAP acts in part via cAMP and protein kinase A to regulate neural patterning and proliferation via antagonism of hedgehog signaling. Using gene targeting and other approaches, he found this interaction to be relevant not only during brain development, but also in the pathogenesis of malignant pediatric brain tumors. In other work, he has demonstrated growth factor-like actions of PACAP in the maturation of white matter (myelin) and in axon regeneration after injury. Most recently, he determined that VIP and PACAP are critically involved in inflammatory responses after nerve injury and in other pathologies such as lung and liver injury, colitis, cystitis, viral infection, and in an animal model of multiple sclerosis. These studies have revealed significant effects of PACAP and VIP PACAP loss on innate cellular responses to injury, as well as in Th1, Th2, and Th17 differentiation, regulatory T cell production, and immune cell invasion of the CNS parenchyma. Has been continuously funding for his research by the NIH since 1984, and is also currently receiving funding through major grants from the National Institutes of Health, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Department of Defense, and the Simons Foundation. Dr. Waschek has served on NIH study sections almost continuously since 2006, and served as an external reviewer for the newly-formed LOWEE Institute on Tumors and Inflammation in Marburg, Germany, and a consultant for the Japanese-Israeli Scientific and Technological Cooperation Agreement in Life Sciences in the Topic of Stem Cell Research.