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July 29, 2005

China - The Brain Science Institute at Fudan University

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Posted by Zack Lynch

One of my favorite resources for understanding where cutting edge neuroscientific research might be occurring next in the next ten years comes from the back 10-15 pages of each week's Science magazine. It is here that leading universities and companies place ads for new positions. This week, one in particular set of positions caught my eye: the newly established Brain Science Institute at Fudan University located in Shanghai, China.

According the Ministry of Education, Fudan University is the leading Chinese university in neuroscience with over 20 research groups. The Insititute is currently seeking a Director as well as several principal investigators to help grow and manage China's emerging excellence in neuroscience research.

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March 13, 2005

Brain Awareness Week Reaches 57 Countries in 10th Year

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Brain Awareness Week is a growing international effort organized by the Dana Foundation to advance public awareness about the progress and benefits of brain research.
Over 1700 organizations across 57 countries are hosting public lectures, educational exhibits, school programs and workshops throughout the week. For educational ideas for your classroom or events occurring in your area visit

For those of you in San Francisco on Monday, I highly recommend coming to watch the award-winning documentary Out of the Shadow which illuminates the national plight of schizophrenia through one family's struggle. It will be shown at the annual training conference of the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare on Monday, March 14 at 4:30 p.m. Hope to see you there.

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November 29, 2004

Venture Philanthropy and FasterCures for Mental Health

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Posted by Zack Lynch

As foundations, private enterprise and governments continue their struggle to develop better therapies for neurological disorders faster, venture philanthropy is looking to shift the entire landscape. Most specifically, FasterCures, formed under the auspices of the Milken Institute, is boldly challenging all aspects of "the complex machinery that drives breakthroughs in medicine work."

The FasterCures Acceleration agenda addresses four key areas:
1. Science and Technology
2. Law and Regulation
3. Economics and Finance
4. Social Issues and Ethics

I highly recommend following this link to their position on increasing incentives for medical cures. It pinpoints why defining the neurotechnology industry will accelerate faster, more targeted cures for mental illness.

Update: Barron's - the cover story of the latest issue of Barron's is entitled: "Stategic giving - A Special Report on Philanthropy -- Business principles are reshaping the charitable world. Five nonprofits to watch.These new players are saying that maybe if we take the best of the business world and the best of philanthropy, we could get some traction on solving these problems," says Elizabeth Bremner, president of the Palo Alto., Calif.-based Foundation Incubator, an organization that helps newly-minted Silicon Valley millionaires get charitable ventures up and running."

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October 12, 2004

Are Foundations Overlooking Mental Health?

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Posted by Zack Lynch

The role of organized philanthropy in mental health in the United States can be traced to the early 1900s when the Rockefeller Foundation and the Milbank Memorial Fund helped establish the National Committee for Mental Hygiene in 1909. Several decades later in 1942, the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation used extensive connections in Congress to inspire the legislation that authorized establishment of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

According to a study published in Health Affairs last year, foundation funding for mental health grew in the 1990s, but the rate of growth was far below that for total foundation giving or giving for health. Grants for mental health and substance abuse increased from $108 million in 1991 to $218 million in 2000. During this period the leading funders in mental health included: The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, who from 1996–2000 gave $41.3 million in mental health grants; Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), Annie E. Casey Foundation, Theodore and Vada Stanley Foundation, and Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation.

The leading recipients of mental health grants included research institutions such as UCLA, Baylor College of Medicine, and the Kennedy Krieger Institute (affiliated with the Johns Hopkins University). Other leading recipients were organizations that both fund research and advocate for increased research funding for different types of brain disorders and mental illnesses (such as the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, the Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders Association, and the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill Research Institute).

While the 2003 Health Affairs article was asking an important question, I don't think their analysis was complete or up-to-date. The following is a short list of recent donations made by foundations to accelerate brain research: $25m for UCLA's Neuropsychiatric Institute along with $5m for Schizophrenia research; $350m for MIT's McGovern Institute for Brain Research; $100m for Paul Allen's Brain Atlas.

These amounts begin to show that foundations are, in fact, pouring money into mental health. Even so, the amount of money is still a drop in the bucket when compared to the size of the growing global mental health epidemic.

For the past three years I have been working full time on a project that will dramatically accelerate the flow of capital towards the research and development of better tools for mental health. Please email me if you are interested in learning how you can play a role in this very important venture.

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September 21, 2004

The Global Neuroscience Initiative

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Posted by Zack Lynch

I recently joined the board of advisors of the Global Neuroscience Initiative Foundation.

Established in 2003, the Global Neuroscience Initiative Foundation is a non-profit charity organization for the advancement of neurological and mental health patient welfare, education, and research. The further brain related studies, end stigmatization and discrimination, improve the well-being of afflicted individuals, promote the free and open-access distribution of brain related information, and institute universal and multidisciplinary distance educational programs.

We are presently accomplishing our mission through the following projects:

- "Knowledge Center" - an article resource for lay persons
- "Brain Sciences & Neuropsychiatry" - an academic and scholarly journal
- "Neuropsychiatry for Kids" - an educational resource for elementary students
- "Living with a Brain Disorder" - unedited insights into the mind of a brain disorder patients
- "Distance Education Division - certificate programs in collaboration with accredited schools, colleges, and universities (like UCLA).

The Initiative is composed solely of volunteers from across the world. I look forward to working with the GNI team to promote a better understanding of mental health worldwide in the coming years. Please visit the GNI website for more information.

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September 14, 2004

Curing Mental Illness -- The Decade of Translation

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Posted by Zack Lynch

This last Saturday at the Staglin Music Festival for Mental Health I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Thomas Insel share his new vision for the National Institute of Mental Health.

"Building on the Decade of the Brain, we are poised for a Decade of Translation, with new discoveries from genomics, neuroscience, and behavioral science leading to new, more effective treatments, and ultimately to the possibility of preventing and curing mental illness. Our priority setting, new funding strategies, and new organization are designed to optimize the translation of our best science to the service of those with mental and behavioral disorders."

As part of this new focus the NIMH has reorganized its research programs into five divisions (from three), effective October 1, 2004:

1. Division of Neuroscience and Basic Behavioral Science (DNBBS)
2. Division of Adult Translational Research and Treatment Development (DATR)
3. Division of Pediatric Translational Research and Treatment Development (DPTR)
4. Division of AIDS and Health and Behavior Research (DAHBR)
5. Division of Services and Intervention Research (DSIR)

These changes represent a shift from basic science, such as studies of emotional regulation or cognitive development, to new translational divisions to accelerate the development of tools to help patients.

Tom's talk was inspirational, informative and also a bit depressing. The direct and indirect cost of mental illness in the US easily surpasses $200B/year, yet the NIMH budget to create substantial change remains a drop in the bucket -- increasing from $1.3B to $1.4B this past year. That said, Tom's understanding of where neurotechnology is headed was definitely a breath of fresh air.

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July 13, 2004

Yahoo! $25M for UCLA's Neuropsychiatric Institute

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Terry Semel, CEO of Yahoo! and his wife recently donated $25 million to UCLA's Neuropsychiatric Institute, making it one the nation's largest gifts solely directed toward the study of the brain.

The Institute has a twofold purpose: to cure brain disease and to help prevent it, shared the institute's director Peter Whybrow. "We want to help not only brain diseases – such as Alzheimer's disease and schizophrenia – but we also want to learn how to minimize it and to teach people how to be good custodians of their health." Whybrow said. Many of the problems society faces today, such as anxiety disorders and obesity, arise from a "demand-driven environment," he added.

The institute is among the largest in the world, with 700 clinical faculty, 1,300 staff members and operating revenues of more than $200 million.

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July 01, 2004

2004 Staglin Music Festival for Mental Health

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Posted by Zack Lynch

If you love wine, brilliant conversation and want to support mental health research, then mark your calendars for the 2004 Staglin Music Festival for Mental Health. Celebrating its tenth year (2003 highlights), this year's festival falls on September 11th and will feature a new cast of luminaries, including:

12:00 (noon) - Dr. Thomas Insel, Director of the National Institutes for Mental Health, will lecture on brain science in the concert tent.

2:00 - A reception will convene in the winery caves, presenting a selection of rare wines, including Harlan, Colgin, Lynch, Screaming Eagle, and Diamond Creek. Chef Cindy Pawlcyn of Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen in St. Helena will prepare hors d'oeuvres.

3:30 - Grammy-winning jazz guitarist Norman Brown will perform under the tent.

5:45 - Dinner at last, orchestrated by Chef Michael Schlow of Boston's Radius restaurant.

Several scientists will be present throughout the day to talk with guests. There is no charge to attend their initial lecture program. Tickets for the reception and concert are $250; these events will accommodate 400 guests. Tickets for the reception, concert and dinner are $2500; dinner will accommodate 200. All revenues will go to mental health research projects throughout the nation. For more information, call (707) 944-0477 or email

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