McLean Hospital joins public-private partnership to find cure for schizophrenia

In September, McLean Hospital joined the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and several public and private organizations to find early therapeutic interventions for people at risk for schizophrenia. Launched by the National Institutes of Health, the public-private partnership is called Accelerating Medicines Partnership (AMP), AMP Schizophrenia (SCZ).

NIH's National Institute of Mental Health plans to add $82.5 million over five years to the effort, and participating organizations will invest $16.5 million over five years through the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health.

The ability of early identification and effective intervention to prevent the onset or mitigate the effects of psychotic illnesses like schizophrenia is of critical importance. Our project will help to bring together multiple data collection and processing sites around the globe to realize this goal."

Eve Lewandowski, PhD, McLean Hospital

Lewandowski, director of Clinical Programming at McLean OnTrackTM and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, explained that "schizophrenia and related disorders often emerge in adolescence or early adulthood and can significantly interfere with people's ability to engage in the activities that make life meaningful, such as work, school, and social relationships."

"We know that delay in treatment can lead to worse outcomes, but unfortunately many people experience significant delays of months or even years between the onset of symptoms and initiation of treatment," she said.

"Detection and intervention before psychosis develops, when individuals are at clinical high risk for psychosis, may allow us to postpone or even prevent the transition to psychosis and improve individuals' clinical and functional outcomes."

Justin Baker, MD, PhD, scientific director of the McLean Institute for Technology in Psychiatry and director of the Laboratory for Functional Neuroimaging and Bioinformatics at McLean, described the AMP Schizophrenia partnership as an "opportunity for focused research" that will build on work that McLean has been engaged in for many years.

"For the past two decades, researchers and clinicians in McLean's Center of Excellence in Psychotic Disorders and the Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder Research Program, under the direction of Dost Öngür, have been engaged in pioneering work to understand both the causes and optimal treatments to assist individuals in the early phases of psychotic illnesses," he reported.

"While a tremendous amount has already been learned by studying individuals who have already received a psychotic disorder diagnosis, it would be even more transformative--and possibly more informative--to catch people even earlier," said Baker.

AMP was created as a public-private partnership between the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, biopharmaceutical and life science companies, and several nonprofit groups. The goal was to "transform the current model for developing new diagnostics and treatments by jointly identifying and validating promising biological targets for therapeutics."

Also, AMP sought to "increase the number of new diagnostics and therapies for patients and reduce the time and cost of developing them." The newly funded AMP-SCZ is the first AMP initiative focused on a neuropsychiatric disorder.

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