The FNIH Launches the Deeda Blair Research Initiative for Disorders of the Brain, Announces First Awards

North Bethesda, MD, May 4, 2021 – The Foundation for the Institutes of Health (FNIH) has launched the Deeda Blair Research Initiative for Disorders of the Brain to drive innovation in mental health research.

Conceived by Mrs. William McCormick Blair, Jr., member of the FNIH Board of Directors, the Research Initiative supports the taking of risks and creative—even disruptive—ideas to accelerate diagnoses and treatments for severe mental illness. The ultimate goal is to foster transformative change, to save lives and prevent great pain and suffering by helping uncover new targets and approaches for therapy. The program is funded by Mrs. Blair, with the generous additional support of individual contributors.

A cross-disciplinary group of leaders from major scientific institutions, clinical practice and industry comprise the award selection committee. The first three awards made by the Deeda Blair Research Initiative provide a total of $400,000 to:

  • Christopher Bartley, M.D., Ph.D. at the University of California, San Francisco for his proposal to generate patient-derived monoclonal autoantibodies (mAbs) that will be used as mechanistic research tools to investigate the molecular and circuit-based underpinnings of psychotic spectrum disorders and other mental illnesses
  • Sarah Fineberg, M.D., Ph.D. at Yale University for her proposal to identify and validate early alert markers of relationship rupture in borderline personality disorder (BPD) using digital phenotyping
  • David Ross, M.D., Ph.D. at Yale University and the National Neuroscience Curriculum Initiative (NNCI) for his proposal to launch the ambitious next phase of his mission to modernize psychiatric education for the next generation of mental health practitioners

“In the United States, more than 45 million adults suffer from mental disorders. These often devastating conditions are on the rise in every country and are estimated to cost $16 trillion by 2030. By establishing this groundbreaking initiative, Mrs. Blair is helping to pave the way to broader understanding of the causes and effects for mental illness. The FNIH is fortunate to steward her singular vision, commitment and leadership,” said  Maria C. Freire, Ph.D., President and Executive Director of the FNIH.

“I am intensely committed to advancing transformative and transcendent approaches to mental health research. Especially critical at this time, mental health must be treated as a global public health response to, and recovery from, the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mrs. Blair.

Learn more about the Deeda Blair Research Initiative for Disorders of the Brain here.

About the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health: The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health creates and manages alliances with public and private institutions in support of the mission of the NIH, the world’s premier medical research agency. The Foundation, also known as the FNIH, works with its partners to accelerate biomedical research and strategies against diseases and health concerns in the United States and across the globe. The FNIH organizes and administers research projects; supports education and training of new researchers; organizes educational events and symposia; and administers a series of funds supporting a wide range of health issues. Established by Congress in 1990, the FNIH is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization. For additional information about the FNIH, please visit

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