Grantees include researchers at Yale University, Stanford University, New York Genome Center, and Wyss Institute at Harvard University; BD² opens new round of funding

Washington, D.C. – BD²: Breakthrough Discoveries for Thriving with Bipolar Disorder today announced its first round of Discovery Research grants, totaling $18 million, bringing greater collaboration and focused funding to the field of bipolar disorder. Multidisciplinary teams of scientists and clinicians, whose leads are at Yale University, Stanford University, New York Genome Center, and the Wyss Institute at Harvard University, will each receive grants of up to $4.5 million over three years to examine the fundamental mechanisms of bipolar disorder. Building on the success and enthusiasm from the field, BD² also announced the second round of funding for the program, inviting interested research teams to apply for grants of the same amount.

“The Discovery Research program is the cornerstone of BD²’s work to broaden understanding so that we can more effectively diagnose and improve treatment for the tens of millions of people living with bipolar disorder,” said Cara Altimus, PhD, managing director for BD² and senior director at the Milken Institute. “These teams of scientists will work within their own institutions and collaborate across teams to explore hypotheses on the biological causes of bipolar disorder.”

The first round of Discovery Research grantees includes:

  • Hilary Blumberg, MD, of Yale University, will lead her team to investigate mitochondrial-related genes, metabolic changes, and the central importance of energy- and activity-related symptoms at the onset of bipolar-related episodes. These studies will expand knowledge about bipolar disorder biology and may translate that into pharmacological therapeutics and behavioral interventions.
  • Julie Kauer, PhD, of Stanford University, will lead her team to study the biological mechanisms underlying bipolar disorder, especially those involved in sleep and mania-like behaviors. This could guide therapeutic development by linking genetic changes to circuit and behavioral level impacts.
  • Thomas Lehner, PhD, of New York Genome Center, will lead his team to explore the genetic underpinnings of bipolar disorder using multiple stem cell approaches to unravel the shared biology of common and rare genetic variants in people with African ancestry. The research will improve our understanding of how genetic risk factors affect changes that converge onto shared genes, biological processes, and pathways.
  • Jenny Tam, PhD, of the Wyss Institute at Harvard University, will lead her team to examine the molecular mechanisms of common bipolar interventions and the pathophysiology of bipolar disorder. This work will provide better insight on mechanisms of action in current treatments, improve upon the use of current treatments, and develop better alternatives.

Learn more about the projects and the teams.

BD² also announced the opening of a second round of funding opportunities for the Discovery Research program. BD² invites scientists across disciplines to learn more about and apply for this funding opportunity for bipolar disorder research.

“Opening the Cycle 2 RFA for the Discovery Research program is a big step for an organization that is just celebrating its first anniversary,” said Eric J. Nestler, MD, PhD, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and Chair, BD² Research Programs. “The work done by these teams will increase our understanding of effective interventions for the millions of people who live with this complex, debilitating disorder.”

BD²’s Discovery Research program leverages successes from Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s (ASAP), an initiative that brings together researchers from different disciplines to accelerate discovery across the entire landscape of Parkinson’s disease research.

“ASAP is proud to see that our collaborative team science model for Parkinson’s disease research is being successfully applied to the field of bipolar disorder research,” said Ekemini Riley, PhD, founder of the Coalition for Science and managing director of ASAP. “Through our shared principle of open science, ASAP and BD² are helping create collaborative, effective strategies that can be applied across scientific disciplines to accelerate discoveries that lead to breakthroughs.”

In its first year, BD² has already dedicated more than $60 million in funding to research that accelerates scientific understanding of bipolar disorder and advances clinical care through cross-disciplinary collaboration, data sharing, and real-time learning.

Grantee Quotes:

  • Hilary Blumberg, MD, John and Hope Furth Professor of Psychiatric Neuroscience, Professor of Psychiatry, Radiology and Biomedical Imaging and in the Child Center, and Director of the Mood Disorders Research Program, at the Yale School of Medicine: “The support from BD² will provide us unique opportunities to study the same individuals with bipolar disorder with new ways to scan their brains to examine brain circuitry function and metabolism and, in brain cells derived with recent stem cell technologies from their blood samples, study individual genetic and molecular mechanisms involved and how they respond to specific medications. The unprecedented opportunities for researchers to perform this work in the context of the highly collaborative larger BD² network we think has potential to be transformative in elucidating causes of BD and in generating more effective diagnostic and treatment methods.”
  • Thomas Lehner, PhD, MPH, Scientific Director of Neuropsychiatric Disease Genomics at the New York Genome Center: “We are excited to use patient-derived cellular models combined with functional genomics and genome engineering to shed light on the biological processes underlying bipolar disorder. By leveraging the Genomic Psychiatry Cohort, our study will also begin to address the pressing need for genetic and cellular data from diverse populations.”
  • Jenny Tam, PhD, Principal Scientist, Wyss Institute at Harvard University:  “Our team is honored to have been selected by BD², and is excited to carry on our important work with this generous support. The CircaVent platform takes a new and unique technological approach to investigating bipolar disorder that has the potential to increase our understanding of its molecular and neuronal causes as well as to discover new drug candidates.”