Deeda Blair Research Initiative for Disorders of the Brain

About Deeda Blair

deeda blair “According to a 2018 Lancet Commission report, mental disorders are on the rise in every country in the world and will cost $16 trillion by 2030. More specifically, the World Health Organization reports that worldwide, an estimated 300 million people are affected by depression. These statistics are of deep concern to all of us, and we must gain a better understanding of disorders of the brain and change this trend. I am intensely committed to advancing transformative and transcendent mental health research.” - Deeda Blair.


With devotion, knowledge and perseverance, Deeda Blair has been a catalyst for bold medical research and scientific breakthroughs for more than five decades. Her passion for biomedical research and global public health combined with her unique ability to convene individuals from business and science to marshal resources and ideas allows experts to tackle some of the world’s most critical health challenges. Her efforts have accelerated groundbreaking research and generated discoveries in the fields of AIDS, infectious disease and cancer, work that is saving lives. Learn more about Deeda Blair’s work as Secretary and Director of the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH), Co-Chair of the Harvard AIDS Initiative International Advisory Council, and Vice President and Director Emeritus of the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation by clicking here.

Now Deeda Blair is building upon her work by establishing the Deeda Blair Research Initiative for Disorders of the Brain at the FNIH. This unprecedented initiative will provide flexible, unrestricted funding to scientists to help them explore creative, even disruptive, new ideas that will accelerate advances in diagnosis and treatment of mental illness

The initiative has great personal meaning for Deeda, as it was established in memory of her son, William McCormick Blair, III. As a young man, William struggled with anxiety and depression and was diagnosed with bipolar illness. In 2004, Deeda and her late husband lost William to suicide. Now, through the initiative, Deeda will provide support for innovative research about disorders of the brain, creating hope for the millions of people worldwide who struggle with mental illness and also for their families.

About the Initiative

The Research Initiative was created to improve the diagnosis and treatment of severe mental illness, including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar illness, and psychotic disorders. The intention of this initiative is to accelerate basic research to discover new targets and approaches for therapy with unrestricted and flexible funding. The collaborations facilitated by this initiative will have the potential to save lives and forestall great pain and suffering. The program will be administered by the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health.

Unlike a typical grant program, these awards will be determined by a Scientific Award Selection Committee of independent scientists and thinkers. Awardees will be encouraged to develop novel ways of thinking about the brain. In addition to transforming what we already know, these individuals or groups will seek new approaches to change our basic understanding of mental illness. Though the focus of the program is mental illness, it may help in an understanding of the brain and of its other diseases.


Scientific Selection Committee

The following leaders from major scientific institutions, clinical practice and industry will recommend rigorous and outstanding scientists for the awards.

  • Mark Daly, Ph.D., Co-Director, Program in Medical and Population Genetics, Broad Institute
  • Karl Deisseroth, M.D., Ph.D., D.H., Chen Professor of Bioengineering and Psychiatry and Behaviorial Sciences, Stanford University
  • Ricardo Dolmetsch, Ph.D., Global Head of Neuroscience, Novartis
  • Maria C. Freire, Ph.D., President and Executive Director, FNIH
  • Paul Herrling, Ph.D., Head of Pharma Research, Novartis, (Retired) Professor of Drug Discovery Science, University of Basel; Adjunct Professor, Harold Dorris Neurobiological Institute, Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California
  • Thomas Insel, M.D., Former Director, National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and President and Co-founder, Mindstrong Health
  • Husseini Manji, M.D., Global Head of Neuroscience, Janssen Research & Development, LLC
  • Samantha Boardman Rosen, M.D., Clinical Instructor in Psychiatry, Assistant Attending Psychiatrist, Weill Cornell Medical College
  • Andrew Solomon, Ph.D., Writer, Professor of Clinical Psychology, Columbia University Medical Center
  • Bruce Stillman, Ph.D., President, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

The selection process and criteria for selection

Awards will be granted to individuals of exceptional promise with a track record of innovative work. The Committee will identify and recommend such individuals. 

Awards will go to creative and imaginative individuals or groups who understand a perspective of mental health as a global public health problem. Their ideas may even be a challenge to the existing research in mental illness.

Consideration will also be given to early stage biotechnology companies where much innovation and translational research take place.

Through this process, standard conflict of interest practices will be strictly observed.

Contributions to this initiative

All types of gifts are welcome including cash, stock gifts and bank transfers. Gifts can also be made through pledge commitments and bequests. We encourage those interested in contributing to this fund to contact

Please contact or call Robert Balthaser at 301-496-9921 with any questions.