Improved brain plasticity.
An “antidote” for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Computer-based therapy for people with substance use disorder.
These are just a few of the 32 exciting projects being funded by CAMH’s Discovery Fund in the first round of awards announced in July 2018. The Discovery Fund was created in January 2018 through a $100-million gift from an anonymous donor, the largest donation to mental health in Canadian history, and is aimed at attracting and developing talent, nurturing research and innovation, and igniting paradigm shifts in mental health research.
“We were tremendously impressed with the variety of truly innovative projects presented to us,” says Dr. Tarek Rajji, chair of the Discovery Fund Operating Committee, Co-Chair of the Seed Funding working group and CAMH’s Deputy Physician-in-Chief for Research.
Indeed, interest in the first two funding competitions far exceeded expectations. There were 72 applications to the Seed Funding competition alone, which supports investigators during the critical initial research start-up period until sustained peer-reviewed funding is secured. After each project was rigorously reviewed and evaluated by a team of internal and external reviewers, seven projects are receiving two-year awards of up to $200,000.
“These are all important studies that could have a powerful impact on mental health in Canada and globally and we’re proud to be able to fund them through the Discovery Fund,” says Dr. Rajji. “Being able to fund high-risk/high-reward studies could lead to paradigm shifts in mental health research.”
The Talent Development competition received applications from 45 post-doctoral fellows and 64 graduate students, and will support trainees pursuing research to better identify, diagnose and treat mental illnesses. Their projects fall across six main themes: brain and/or behaviour interventions; clinical measure and/or biomarker identification; health services and epidemiological research; implementation science; translating and extending clinical neuroscience into clinical research; and basic and preclinical neuroscience. A total of 25 trainees are being funded, launching the next generation of inspired and inspiring mental health researchers.
The Seed Funding and Talent Development awards are just the first of a number of Discovery Fund initiatives being launched in the coming months. CAMH’s new BrainHealth Databank will boost our ability to gather comprehensive data from all patients participating in research through wearable devices, imaging, biological samples and much more. Through our Clinical Research Implementation efforts, we’ll provide the core infrastructure support needed to strategically prioritize mental health research and ultimately solve major challenges in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental illness and addiction.
“This is only the beginning,” says Dr. Vicky Stergiopoulos, Chair of the Discovery Fund steering committee and CAMH’s Physician-in-Chief. “There is such an urgent need for better understanding and treatments for people with mental illness. Through the Discovery Fund, we are focused on discovery and innovation to improve outcomes for those we serve today, as well as future generations, both here in Canada, and around the world. The Discovery Fund gives us the opportunity to change the future of mental health research.”