Major new grant makes iPSYCH the world leader in the psychiatric field
The iPSYCH research project has once again received a record-breaking grant from the Lundbeck Foundation. The grant means the project will become the one of the largest in the world within the field of psychiatric research.
Schizophrenia, bipolar affective disorder, autism, ADHD and depression. In 2012, a number of leading researchers working within the field of psychiatry and genetics in Denmark combined to find the causes of these serious mental disorders in the Lundbeck Foundation Initiative for Integrated Psychiatric Research or iPSYCH. At that time the project received the largest grant ever for psychiatric research in Denmark – DKK 121 million. Now the research project has received yet another grant from the Lundbeck Foundation, this time totalling DKK 120 million.
According to iPSYCH Director and Professor at Aarhus University Mogens Kilian, by virtue of the support from the Lundbeck Foundation, the research project will be the leading project within psychiatric research in the world.
"The research activities at iPSYCH chart the entire spectrum of factors which play a role in psychiatric disorders. In addition to large-scale clinical projects which follow patients over a number of years, there is a focus on the genetic factors, environmental factors and the interaction between all of these factors. Around 140 researchers in Aarhus and Copenhagen are involved in the project and there is extensive collaboration with leading researchers in Europe, the USA and Australia," explains Mogens Kilian.
Researchers queuing up
More than 80,000 Danes – both with and without mental illnesses – will have their genes and life history examined in detail as part of the IPSYCH psychiatric research project, which is historic due to its size.
"Because of iPSYCH's unique research opportunities, which in addition to the grant from the Lundbeck Foundation are contingent on the special Danish registers, foreign researchers are queuing up to become involved. For the same reasons, we have also acquired extensive financial support from foreign foundations. Both nationally and internationally there are major and well-founded expectations for iPSYCH," says Mogens Kilian.
The unique opportunity to combine data from unrivalled Danish population registers with genetic analyses of large patient groups have, in the space of a few years, created completely new results which are attracting international resonance.
"For the first time, we have identified thousands of genetic variants which are relevant for the causes of schizophrenia. We have completed the first study which has systematically searched across the entire genome and found the interaction between genes and environment, in this case the mother's exposure to a virus. We have also demonstrated a correlation between vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy and later schizophrenia in children," explains Scientific Director of iPSYCH and Professor at Aarhus University, Preben Bo Mortensen.
Heredity factors and environment under the microscope
He emphasises that the most important outcome of the project during the first three years could turn out to be constructing the world’s largest sets of data for studying these questions.
"We have completely unique data available. This makes it possible to shed light on the complex interaction between heredity factors and the environment which, for some people, results in them developing a mental illness. So ultimately, our ambition is to contribute to being able to prevent the disease arising, or if that happens, being able to deliver faster and more effective treatment," says Preben Bo Mortensen.
Principal Investigator at iPSYCH and Professor at Aarhus University, Anders Børglum, explains that there are several thousand variants of genes that have a bearing on whether a person develops mental illness or not, but that we only know about a little more than one hundred of these at present.
"We have only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the genetic causes of these diseases. With the large iPSYCH data sets, we will be able to find many more disease genes and uncover important biological disease mechanisms. These central disease mechanisms can possibly be new targets for the development of more precise, gentle and effective treatment," says Anders Børglum.
In the course of the project's first couple of years, iPSYCH has been involved in publishing 200 scientific articles on mental disorders in collaboration with SSI (the Danish State Serum Institute) and a number of foreign research institutions.
iPSYCH comprises leading Danish researchers in psychiatry, genetics and register-based research in close collaboration with Head of Neonatal Screening and Hormones David M. Hougaard, Department of Congenital Disorders, SSI. Furthermore they collaborate with, among others, the Broad Institute, MIT/Harvard University, USA, Psychiatric Genomics Consortium, John Hopkins University, USA, Queensland, Brain Institute, Australia, Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI), deCode Genetics in Iceland and the Genetic Biobank of the Faroe Islands. Taken together, this provides an unique opportunity to create ground-breaking new knowledge which, in the long term, may result in treatment that is tailor-made for each individual person on the basis of genetic profile, environmental factors and clinical symptoms viewed together as one.
The iPSYCH project group comprises:
Professor Preben Bo Mortensen, Aarhus University
Professor Anders Børglum, Aarhus University
Professor Ole Mors, Aarhus University and Aarhus University Hospital, Risskov
Professor Thomas Werge, Mental Health Centre Sct. Hans, Capital Region of Denmark
Professor Merete Nordentoft, Mental Health Centre Copenhagen, Capital Region of Denmark
Professor Preben Bo Mortensen
Aarhus University, Department of Economics & Business