$4 Million Grant Will Help Fund Depression Study Center
Research at the nation’s first comprehensive depression center will soon have a new home, thanks to a new $4M federal grant from the National Institutes of Health.
The money will help fund research space that will allow researchers to study the biological roots of depression and bipolar disorder, conduct diagnostic tests, and develop new treatments.
The grant will help fund the construction of an entire floor of research space in the Depression Center and Ambulatory Psychiatry facility that will be built at the U-M Health System’s East Ann Arbor Properties. Approved by the University’s Board of Regents in July, the building will be completed in 2006.
The research area, totaling 24,000 square feet, will allow U-M researchers to study the causes of depression and bipolar disorder, conduct diagnostic tests, and develop treatments, as well as try to understand the biological roots of these common, debilitating and under-diagnosed mental illnesses.
The newly funded space will include labs, clinical investigation facilities and offices, and will be directly above the building’s outpatient clinics and educational facilities.
“The entire Depression Center team welcomes this recognition, financial help, and additional space. All are necessary to move research forward and make advances in scientific discovery, diagnosis and treatment,” says John Greden, M.D., executive director of the Depression Center and chair of the U-M Medical School’s Department of Psychiatry. “The NIH’s decision to fully fund our proposal signals the importance of this effort to the nation’s health.”
The U-M’s comprehensive Depression Center is the first of its kind in the world, encompassing research, treatment, education and public policy. Proposed in 1999 and founded in 2001, it brings together more than 100 depression experts from seven U-M schools and colleges.
U-M researchers have nearly $13 million in federal and foundation grants to study all aspects of depression, from genetics and brain chemistry to treatment outcomes.
The new space, funded by the grant from the NIH’s National Center for Research Resources and by matching funds from UMHS, will consolidate the Depression Center’s clinical research in a single location convenient for researchers and clinical trial participants. It will augment existing laboratory and office space in other U-M buildings, including the Mental Health Research Institute.
Among the specialized areas within the research floor will be:
–a soundproof sleep lab to study how depression affects sleep and vice versa;
–a light-therapy, nutrition and physiology laboratory to the effects of light, exercise and diet on depressive symptoms;
–computing facilities that will allow rapid processing of brain-scan images and other data through high-speed links to research sites throughout the U-M;
–a translational genetics lab for studies of depression’s chemical and genetic roots;
–patient assessment rooms, including areas for infants, children and teens; and
–a telemedicine facility to allow U-M mental health specialists to consult with physicians and psychologists in rural areas and other cities.
The research facility will also provide office and research space for new members of the U-M Depression Center team, who are now being recruited or have recently joined the faculty of the Medical School or other areas. A dedicated Bipolar Disorders Research Clinic will be established.
Together, the center’s researchers will tackle many of the unmet needs and unanswered scientific questions surrounding depression and bipolar disorder.
“Too many of the research areas that have helped advance our understanding and treatment of depression have been developing separately, in ‘silos’ that interfere with the pace of future breakthroughs,” says Greden. “We see this new facility as a place for cross-fertilization and multidisciplinary effort that will bring various research strategies together as never before.”
The research floor will be organized into six major research modules, each based on an area of research that integrates many fields. These are:
–Screening, assessment and registry Where specialists will develop and implement new strategies and technologies for evaluating research participants, storing their information in secure registries, and determining their suitability for various clinical studies.
–Neurobiology Where researchers will conduct clinical research on the interplay in depressive disorders of genetics, stress and neuroendocrinology, brain activity (revealed through neuroimaging), sleep and chronophysiology, and other biological factors.
–Behavioral sciences and cognitive neurosciences Where studies will focus on the emotional, cognitive, social, psychological, substance abuse and psychotherapy aspects of depression. Experts from many of these disciplines will interact in unprecedented ways with scientists studying the biological underpinnings of depression.
–Clinical investigations Here, new treatments for depressive illnesses will be tested through clinical trials of new medications, new approaches to individual and group therapy, and interventions ranging from light therapy to deep-brain stimulation. Clinical trial participants will come to this area for outpatient visits.
–Biomedical informatics The “nerve center” of the new facility, this area will include computing facilities that will allow researchers to collect and process huge amounts of research data and medical images, and to develop new computer-based tools for their research. It will also house the telemedicine facility.
–Health services and outcomes Where researchers will try to close the gap between “what we know and what we do” in treating depressive disorders. Despite new knowledge about effective screening, diagnosis, and treatment, many people never get the full range of care that could help them. By partnering with primary care clinicians and other specialists across Michigan and northern Ohio, U-M researchers will have a large network for studying patterns of care and methods for improving care.
In all, says Greden, the new facility will ensure that depression research at the U-M draws from all the strengths already present in the Depression Center team, adds to these strengths, and brings researchers together in new ways for the future.
“This model of collaborative research integrated with clinical care and education in the same building has already shown its value in the Comprehensive Cancer Centers and Geriatrics Centers throughout the nation,” he notes. “We hope that this facility will not only fulfill our Depression Center’s three-part mission, but also serve as a model for other institutions.