Deeda Blair Research Initiative for Disorders of the Brain

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About Deeda Blair

  Deeda Blair

Everyone wants to fund projects that they know will succeed. I want to fund young researchers I believe in, the ones whose work is still preliminary for most major grants, the ones who are deploying their imagination in fresh and surprising ways."

-Deeda Blair, FNIH Board Member

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.

Deeda Blair’s extensive career has included serving as Vice President and Director Emeritus of the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation, Co-Chair of the Harvard AIDS Initiative International Advisory Council, and on numerous nonprofit boards. She currently serves on the FNIH Board of Directors as Secretary and Director. She has received many honors, including the degree of Doctor of Science Honoris Causa from Drexel University. To learn more, please see her bio.

Now Deeda Blair is building upon her work through the Deeda Blair Research Initiative for Disorders of the Brain at the FNIH. This unprecedented initiative provides 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

Anxiety, Depression, Bipolar, and Mood Disorders

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 disorder. In 2004, Deeda and her late husband lost William to suicide. Now, through the initiative, Deeda provides 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.

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About the Initiative

The Research Initiative was created to improve the diagnosis and treatment of severe mental illness, including mood disorders, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and psychotic disorders. The intention is to accelerate basic research to discover new targets and approaches for therapy with unrestricted and flexible funding. The collaborations it facilitates will have the potential to save lives and prevent great pain and suffering. The program is administered by the FNIH.

Unlike a typical grant program, these awards are determined by a Scientific Award Selection Committee of independent scientists and thinkers. Awardees are 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.

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Scientific Selection Committee

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

  • Samantha Boardman Rosen, M.D., Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Assistant Attending Psychiatrist at Weill Cornell Medical College
  • 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 Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University
  • Ricardo Dolmetsch, Ph.D., President, Research & Development, uniQure
  • Maria C. Freire, Ph.D., Principal, The Freire Group
  • Paul Herrling, Ph.D., Retired Chairman, Novartis Institute for Tropical Disease; Professor Emeritus, University of Basel, Switzerland
  • Thomas Insel, M.D., Former Director, National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and President and Co-founder, Mindstrong Health
  • Husseini Manji, M.D., Visiting Professor, Oxford University
  • Andrew Solomon, Ph.D., Writer, Professor of Clinical Psychology, Columbia University Medical Center
  • Bruce Stillman, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Selection criteria and process

  • 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.

2021 Research Initiative Awards

The inaugural awards have had significant impact for the following clinician-scientists, enabling them to execute their innovative projects:

  • Christopher Bartley, M.D., Ph.D., now at the National Institutes of Health, has improved existing immune profiling technology and used it to identify and novel autoantibodies associated with schizophrenia and determine precisely where these antibodies bind to proteins in the brain.
  • Sarah Fineberg, M.D., Ph.D., at Yale University, has used technology and pattern analysis to identify and validate early relationship ruptures in borderline personality disorder.
  • David Ross, M.D., Ph.D., at the National Neuroscience Curriculum Initiative, and now at the University of Alberta, has worked to transform the medical educational model, creating tools to help psychiatrists and other mental health professionals integrate cutting-edge neuroscience into clinical practice, and ultimately provide better care to patients. 

How to add your support to this initiative

Thank you very much for your kind interest in supporting the Deeda Blair Research Initiatives for Disorders of the Brain through the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH). The tax identification number is 52-1986675.

There are many ways to support the Research Initiative:

Send a Check:  Write the check to “Foundation for the NIH” and please note that the gift is designated for “The Deeda Blair Research Initiative.” Mailing instructions are below:

Mail to: Foundation for the National Institutes of Health 
Attention: Laren Friedman
11400 Rockville Pike, Suite 600 
North Bethesda, MD 20852


Bank Transfer (ACH or Wire):  Please contact Laren Friedman at (301) 451-8855 or lfriedman@fnih.org

Donate Stock or Securities:  Please contact Laren Friedman at (301) 451-8855 or lfriedman@fnih.org

Planned/Estate Gift:  Please contact Jennifer Rosenbluth-Stoll at (301) 402-5343 or jrosenbluth-stoll@fnih.org

If you have any questions or would like to further discuss your gift, please contact FNIH Advancement Officer Laren Friedman at (301) 451-8855 or lfriedman@fnih.org