Promising, But Not Out There: BBRF's 2015 Independent Investigator Grant Recipients

The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation is all about taking on mental illness—especially schizophrenia and depression—and its 2015 awardees reflect that focus.

Of the 40 grants, eight went toward depression-related projects, and 12 went toward schizophrenia research. Other funding areas include the science of addiction, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, anxiety, and multiple disorders. Overall, BBRF’s foundational philosophy is evident in these awards—cutting-edge, but not over the edge.

BBRF, like many of its fellow charitable foundations taking on brain research, keeps mostly to already proven avenues of research. In other words, the foundation has a groove, and it's sticking with it. The research is groundbreaking, but sensible, and—barring the occasional outlier, like researching epilepsy drugs’ efficacy on schizophrenia symptoms—it doesn't fund off-the-wall projects.

This year’s crop of Independent Investigator Grants is going to award $3.9 million to 40 scientists from 30 institutions in 16 different countries. There are two Nobel Prize winners, four former directors of the National Institute of Mental Health, four recipients of the National Medal of Science, 13 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 21 chairs of psychiatry and neuroscience departments at leading colleges and universities around the world, and 47 members of the Institute of Medicine.

If that list isn’t impressive, I don’t know what is. These grants provide “gap” funding of up to $50K per year while investigators are between beginning their research and receiving sustained funding.

"Every year, the Foundation supports innovative work that builds upon a growing body of knowledge geared to understanding, preventing, treating and curing psychiatric illnesses," says Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D., president and CEO of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation. "We are delighted to support the research of these outstanding scientists."

"The goal of the research supported by Independent Investigator Grants is to increase the possibility that people living with mental illness will be able to live full and productive lives," says Scientific Council Member and Chair Robert M. Post, M.D., of George Washington University. "The foundation selects Independent Investigators who are conducting creative research that advances our understanding of the brain, and the role genetics, brain circuitry, neural pathways, and biochemistry play in behavior and mental illness."