E. Fuller Torrey, The Stanley Medical Research Institute

TITLE: Executive Director

FUNDING AREAS: Mental health, psychiatry, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder

CONTACT: torreyf@stanleyresearch.org, 301-571-2078

IP TAKE: Torrey sees a gap in government services for people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and wants to do his part to fill it in. He and his team at The Stanley Medical Research Institute fund researchers evaluating drugs that lack commercial appeal, but that show promise for treating patients with the aforementioned illnesses.

PROFILE: Dr. E. Fuller Torrey is a psychiatrist by training, and the winner of many accolades for his contributions to the field, notably in the areas of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. As the Executive Director for The Stanley Medical Research Institute, Torrey is in charge of about $30 million in annual giving to support research into treatments for mental illness. 

The Stanley Medical Research Institute is specifically concerned with two mental illnesses: bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. The foundation's mission: researching causes for, and treatments of, these disorders. Per the Institute's website, some four million Americans are affected by either schizophrenia or bipolar, but there isn't a lot of solid research going on to help root out these illnesses. The Stanley Medical Research team wants to change that. The organization boasts that it's the single-largest non-governmental source of funds supporting bipolar and schizophrenia research in the United States.

In Torrey, The Stanley Medical Research Institute has a go-getter for a leader. He may have started his career as a humble doctor (including a stint as a Peace Corps physician), but he has gone on to write 20 books and hundreds of papers on mental illness and policy. Torrey is also a prolific writer of newspaper articles, usually to draw attention to what he believes are failures of federal health policy. In the Wall Street Journal, Torrey laments the failures wrought by decades of shifting care for the mentally ill from institutional to community-based settings. His solution: less federal involvement, more power to the states. (Torrey made similar state-empowerment arguments in a piece for the Heritage Foundation.) In the National Review, Torrey explains his theory that federal agencies in charge of programs for the mentally ill are inadequate and allow schizophrenics to slip through the cracks and sometimes murder people. And in a 2001 piece for the Washington Monthly, Torrey excoriates the National Institute of Mental Health for spending what he believes is too much money on researching birds.

Despite his general grumpiness about the federal government, Torrey remains an optimist about the importance of medical research and making advances in the field of mental health. His approach: spending money on treatment trials. More specifically, The Stanley Medial Research Institute puts support behind trials that assess the efficacy of drugs a pharmaceutical company might not be inclined to evaluate itself, for commercial reasons. Currently, these pharmaceutical treatment trials—intended to broaden treatment options for sufferers of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder—are the only kind of research the institute is willing to fund. (Prior to 2009 or so, Torrey's group invested in a broader range of mental health research, but they've narrowed their philanthropic scope due to a declining availability of research funding.) Fortunately for would-be schizophrenia/bipolar drug researchers, the projects The Stanley Medical Research Institute takes on, it funds well. Current year grant applicants can apply for support of up to $300,000 a year for up to three years. More information on the institute's grant application process is available here