The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health Announces Recipients of the Deeda Blair Research Initiative for Disorders of the Brain Awards

NORTH BETHESDA, Md., June 25, 2024 – The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH) has announced three new recipients of awards given by the Deeda Blair Research Initiative for Disorders of the Brain.

“This program is designed to support early career physician scientists who have demonstrated exceptional promise, discipline, and strong commitment to a specific field of mental health and at the same time curiosity and imagination,” said Mrs. William McCormick Blair, Jr., a member of the FNIH Board of Directors. “Their work is critical as we face a global mental health crisis. With rising rates of depression, hopelessness, and suicidality, especially among youth, we need to support creative scientists to develop new solutions.”

The goal of the FNIH-administered program is to discover new therapeutic targets and methods to improve the diagnosis and treatment of brain disorders, potentially transforming current approaches to severe mental illness and creating hope for millions of people worldwide.

Applications for the awards were first peer reviewed by principal investigators at the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and then by a committee of advisors comprised of leaders from major scientific institutions, clinical practice, and industry, who made the final selection.

In support of this Initiative, Thomas Insel, MD, chair of the Initiative’s selection committee and former director of the NIMH, remarked, “Now is the ideal time for major new investments to harness the tools of biology, behavioral science, and artificial intelligence to address the needs of people with serious mental illness.”

The three awardees, who will each receive $200,000, are:

• Ryan Ash, MD, PhD, of Stanford University, for his proposal on transcranial ultrasound suppressive stimulation (TUSS) for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). TUSS is a noninvasive technique that allows focal neuromodulation of the deep brain areas most implicated in psychiatric disease, including the fear regulation circuit, the disruption of which has been associated with PTSD. Dr. Ash will measure the effect of TUSS on different nodes of the fear regulation circuit to further explore this association and advance understanding of the neural basis of PTSD. Findings from this research also hold promise for additional neuropsychiatric disorders, including anxiety, depression, addiction, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and chronic pain syndrome.

• Andrew Moses Lee, MD, PhD, of the University of California, San Francisco, for his proposal on the spatiotemporal characterization of the role of the brain’s Default Mode Network (DMN) in OCD and depression. Neuropsychiatric disorders are increasingly understood to reflect dysfunction in distributed brain networks, including the DMN, which has been implicated in the development of OCD and depression. Dr. Lee’s research will further explore this area to investigate whether the spatiotemporal dynamics of the DMN can serve as potential biomarkers for OCD/depressive symptoms and as a therapeutic target for neuromodulation treatments for these disorders.

• Kartik Pattabiraman, MD, PhD, of Yale University, for his proposal to develop CRISPR-based epigenetic editing interventions for schizophrenia. Using preclinical models, Dr. Pattabiraman hopes to correct two previously described anatomical findings associated with schizophrenia. Gene editing technology will be tested to determine whether it can reverse the reduction in dendritic spines in the brain’s prefrontal cortex and whether it can prevent potentially disruptive changes in early development of the thalamus. Optimization of this approach in preclinical models is essential for translation into potential clinical interventions.

The seven awards presented in previous years have had significant impact on several clinician-scientists, enabling them to execute their innovative projects. The 2023 awardees were: Neil Amin, MD, PhD, of Stanford University, who proposed a molecular differentiation atlas of the human brain with 3D stem cell models to investigate neurons implicated in psychiatric disorders. Juliet Beni Edgcomb, MD, PhD, of the University of California, Los Angeles, has connected large-scale electronic health record data mining to precision tools supporting real-world care for children and their families to address the youth mental health crisis. Youngjung Kim, MD, PhD, of Massachusetts General Hospital, has investigated the biology of eating disorders using human stem cell-derived adipocytes and CRISPR gene editing techniques, with the goal of better understanding appetite dysregulation and identifying new molecular targets for drug development. Jonathan Power, MD, PhD, of Weill Cornell Medical College, has created precision functional brain mapping that informs circuit-guided transcranial magnetic stimulation to modulate human behavior. A list of all previous recipients is available here.

Mrs. Blair thanks the many donors who have joined her to have an impact on mental illness. “I have asked for help with funding this program and received outstanding, generous support from wonderful friends and also from others I have not known before who learned about this initiative. I am deeply, deeply grateful.”

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 (FNIH) builds public-private partnerships that connect leading biomedical scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with their counterparts in life sciences companies, academia, patient organizations, foundations, and regulatory agencies (including the Food and Drug Administration and European Medicines Agency). Through team science, the FNIH solves complex health challenges and accelerates breakthroughs for patients, regardless of who they are or what health threats they face. The FNIH contributes to the development of new therapies, diagnostics, and potential cures; advances global health and equity in care; and celebrates and helps train the next generations of scientists. Established by Congress in 1990 to support the mission of the NIH, the FNIH is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization. For more information about the FNIH, please visit

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