The Deeda Blair 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.

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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Selection Committee 

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

  • Samantha Boardman Rosen, MD

    Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Assistant Attending Psychiatrist at Weill Cornell Medical College

  • Mark Daly, PhD

    Co-Director, Program in Medical and Population Genetics, Broad Institute 

  • Karl Deisseroth, MD, PhD, DH

    Chen Professor of Bioengineering and Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University

  • Julie Louise Gerberding, MD, MPH

    President and Chief Executive Officer, Foundation for the National Institutes of Health

  • Paul Herrling, PhD

    Retired Chairman, Novartis Institute for Tropical Disease; Professor Emeritus, University of Basel, Switzerland 

  • Thomas Insel, MD

    Former Director, National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
    President and Co-founder, Mindstrong Health 

  • Husseini Manji

    MD, Visiting Professor, Oxford University 

  • Steven M. Paul, MD

    Chairman, Foundation for the National Institutes of Health
    Chief Scientific Officer and President of Research and Development, Karuna Therapeutics

  • Andrew Solomon, PhD

    Writer, Professor of Clinical Psychology, Columbia University Medical Center 

  • Bruce Stillman, PhD

    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.
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2023 Research Initiative Recipients

  • Director
    Neal Amin, MD, PhD
    Stanford University

    Dr. Amin was selected for his proposal to develop a molecular differentiation atlas of the human brain with 3D stem cell models to investigate neurons implicated in psychiatric disorders.

  • Director
    Juliet Beni Edgcomb, MD, PhD
    University of California, Los Angeles 

    Dr. Edgcomb was selected for her proposal to develop phenotype algorithms for the identification of childhood-onset serious mental illness in electronic health records using informatics and data science approaches.

  • Director
    Youngjung Kim, MD, PhD
    Massachusetts General Hospital 

    Dr. Kim was selected for her proposal to identify the molecular mechanisms of metabolic reprogramming in psychiatric illnesses through patient-derived cellular models Recent genome-wide association studies have highlighted points of places in the brain associated with metabolism as key genetic vulnerabilities for psychiatric disorders, including mood disorders.

  • Director
    Jonathan Power, MD, PhD
    Weill Cornell Medical College

    Dr. Power was selected for his proposal to create precision functional brain mapping that informs circuit-guided transcranial magnetic stimulation to modulate human behavior.

2021 Research Initiative Recipients

  • Director
    Christopher Bartley, MD, PhD
    National Institutes of Health

    Dr. Bartley 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.

  • Director
    Sarah Fineberg, MD, PhD
    Yale University

    Dr. Fineberg has used technology and pattern analysis to identify and validate early relationship ruptures in borderline personality disorder.

  • Director
    David Ross, MD, PhD
    National Neuroscience Curriculum Initiative and The University of Alberta

    Dr. Ross 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.

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