Jeffrey Borenstein, Brain & Behavior Research Foundation

TITLE: President and CEO

FUNDING AREAS: Brain research, mental health research, schizophrenia, depression

CONTACT: jborenstein@bbrfoundation.org, (516) 829-0091

IP TAKE: With Borenstein's recent appointment, the foundation hopes to bring in enough additional support to fund an expanded set of research projects on mental health. Borenstein is himself a serious scientist, but with connections in the media and broadcasting world as well.

PROFILE: Before he started heading up the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation in 2013, Jeffrey Borenstein had worked in the field of psychiatry in almost every imaginable capacity. He is a doctor, with a medical degree from NYU. He is an academic—a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University. He is a media guy, serving as Editor in Chief of Psychiatric News. He's also the host of his own TV show on public television: Healthy Minds, a program designed to educate people and dispel myths about mental illness.

After decades of practicing medicine and crafting a public persona, Borenstein's influence in the field of psychiatry goes deep and wide. So when the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation brought Borenstein on as president in 2013, they were excited about what his prestige could bring to the foundation, whose ambitions have been constrained by challenging budget circumstances.

The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation (formerly NARSAD, the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression) has as its mission "to identify causes, improve treatments, and one day prevent and cure mental illness." A major endeavor, this. And an expensive one. The foundation likes to tout its investments in scientific research—$300 million to more than 3,300 scientists since 1987—but the group estimates that its future will depend on some serious fundraising. Or at least that's what it seems like from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation's press releases, which tend to emphasize both a frustrating fiscal environment as well as Borenstein's ability to bring in cash. Lamenting declining federal and university funding for mental health research in one press release, Herbert Pardes, then Vice Chairman of the foundation's board, expresses optimism about the new President and CEO. "With Jeff at the helm," said Pardes, "we are confident that our ambitious objectives to award significantly more grants will become a reality." And in another press release, Pardes again explained that, thanks to Borenstein's arrival, he was "confident we will achieve a new level of funding support to further the advances being made." Another clue the foundation could use a cash flow infusion: per its most recently available tax filings, its annual giving is greater than its assets.

Fortunately, Borenstein is ready to accept the challenge the foundation's board has given him. Acknowledging the scarcity of research funding these days, Berstein's goal, he explains, "is to substantially increase the amount of research we are able to support." 

And just what does the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation support? A lot of research, quite simply. Depending on what your goals are, you too could qualify for between $30,000 and $100,000 in yearly funding, if you're an academic making advances in understanding mental health. And should you choose to apply for cash from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, your proposed project will be judged by 138 of the nation's leading scientists. As its grant reviewing committee, the foundation relies on a team of 138 volunteers, known as the "scientific council." Among the council's members: two Nobel Prize winners, four former directors of the National Institute of Mental Health, 13 members of the National Academy of Sciences, and 30 chairs of university psychiatry and neuroscience departments. In other words: would-be grantees, expect some scrutiny for your projects. But also be mindful, though, that what used to be called NARSAD grants are big door openers for ambitious scientists seeking to further their careers. Details on how to apply for Brain & Behavior Research Foundation grants are available here.