Meet Our Team
Director, NIH Brain and Tissue Repository (NBTR)
Vahram Haroutunian, PhD has been director of the Mount Sinai Department of Psychiatry Brain Bank, now known as the NIH Brain and Tissue Repository (NBTR), for its entire 35+ year tenure. He has led translational clinical, neuropathological, molecular biological and animal model studies of aging, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and serious mental illness for over 35 years. The repository has distributed tens of thousands of brain-related biospecimens to laboratories at Mount Sinai, the JJ Peters VA Medical Center and around the globe.
Recently his studies have led to identifying major neurobiological distinctions between young-old and oldest-old persons. Identification of these distinctions is innovative since they unmask mechanisms that can positively impact successful aging and promote the development of age-specific therapeutic approaches for dementia. In addition, he has spearheaded neurobiological studies of schizophrenia with an emphasis on white matter abnormalities and dismyelination. Together with colleagues he has used systems and bioinformatic approaches to explore cell-type specific changes in schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease to identify molecular abnormalities at the individual cellular and sub-cellular level.
Dushyant Purohit, MD is a board-certified neuoropathology associate and has been with the brain bank for over two decades. He is the neuropathologist of record for all brain assessments.
Alexander Cline (BS – Social Sciences) is the NBTR Program Specialist managing the Director’s budget, personnel requirements and programmatic administration of the NBTR. His responsibilities extend to grants and fiscal management, and antemortem donor registry program management. He is a decorated combat veteran and retired US Air Force officer.
Ms. Bence brings over 20 years of forensic, pathology and tissue recovery experience to the NBTR. She is one of two prosectors responsible for the collection, transport, and initial preparation of donor tissue.
Danny Benitez (AS-Business Administration) began working as the Autopsy Coordinator in December of 2016. He assumed this role from Mr. Bustamante and manages the tasking and assignment of our prosectors for tissue collection. A decorated US Army combat veteran, Mr. Benitez has quickly become the initial primary point of focus for our new donations.
Donation Coordinator and Database Management
Maxwell Bustamante (AA Computer Information Systems) began serving as the Autopsy and Project Coordinator in 2012, functioning as the first contact and final consenting authority for all donations through 2016. In 2016 he relinquished the primary Autopsy Coordinator role, continuing to serve as an alternate while becoming a primary computer administrator and database coordinator.
Donation Coordinator and Database Management
Joshua Arneson has served as the NBTR Data Manager since 2014. He is a US Army combat veteran who also has extensive DoD consulting experience working in Afghanistan and Iraq prior to joining the NBTR. He has completely redesigned, modernized and rebuilt the custom laboratory software that serves all aspects of the NBTR, from antemortem registration through specimen acquisition, characterization and distribution.
Elizabeth Austin (BS) volunteered at the NBTR beginning in 2015, performing data entry and medical record scanning. In May, 2017, upon earning her BS she was enthusiastically hired as an NBTR technologist. She manages inventory of over 20,000 pieces of brain tissue, aliquoted tissue, blood, muscle, and cerebral spinal fluid from the over 2000 donated brains.
Christine Marino is the lead technologist for fulfilling NBTR tissue requests. She also oversees the activities of other NBTR staff in inventory management, quality assurance and DNA and RNA isolations. While working full time at the NBTR, Ms Marino attends Lehman College and will earn her BA in Environmental Science in 2019.
Laboratory and NBTR Management
Gregory Austin (BA - Biology) began working at the James J. Peters VA Medical Center (1980) and Mount Sinai School of Medicine (1985). He has been associated with the Haroutunian Laboratories and the NBTR ever since, progressing through the ranks to now serve as overall laboratory manager and NBTR lab chief.
Stephen Panopoulos (MA-Psychology) began clinical assessment of postmortem brain tissue donors in the Fall of 2016. He has quickly become a lynchpin in our process with his Short Initial Summaries categorizing recent donors so we can catalogue and in process new donations. His detailed Post Mortem Clinical Reviews allow for a final characterization of newly acquired tissue.
Dr. Qureshi has worked with Dr. Haroutunian as the Brain Bank prosector for twenty years. He is responsible for the collection and transport of donor tissue.