Neuroscience and Mental Health Innovation Institute officially launched

Cardiff University has launched a ground-breaking innovation institute which aims to addresses one of the major societal challenges facing the world today - the increasing burden of mental ill health and neurodegenerative disorders.

Cardiff University is proud to officially launch the Neuroscience and Mental Health Innovation Institute. The institute’s mission is to harness its world-leading research in brain and mental health to enhance the lives of patients and their families.

The institute’s work covers the lifespan from childhood to older age and includes neurodevelopmental conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism, the major adult psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, epilepsy, dystonia, and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.

The institute consists of a diverse group of scientists and clinicians dedicated to translating their world-leading research into new and better therapies for brain and mental health disorders. The institute’s scientists and clinicians work with patient groups and their families, charities, the NHS, local and UK government funding agencies, academic research groups from around the world and industry.

Harnessing genomics to big data - The university carries out world-leading research in genomics and has access to large cohorts of genotyped and clinically assessed patients from key strategic assets. Combining genomics with the power of big data has great potential to unlock new insights into the stratification of brain disorders and develop routes to personalised treatment.

Exploiting the power of neuroscience - The institute uses multidisciplinary neuroscience approaches including human stem cell-based methods, brain imaging, neuropsychology, and neuroimmunology to understand the impact of risk factors on brain function, to develop biomarkers for early intervention, and to reveal pathogenic mechanisms that can guide the development of therapies.

New treatments - Extensive analysis shows that the development of therapies based on genomically defined targets have a higher likelihood of success in the clinic. The institute uses genomics, combined with advances in neuroscience methods and data science, to contribute to the development of safer and more effective medicines for the personalised treatment of mental health and brain disorders.

Improving societal mental health - 75% of mental health problems start before the age of 18. The institute engages with social science colleagues to consider how advances in genomics and neuroscience can inform the development of new clinical services and approaches to diagnosis and treatment. They also support work on interventions across the life course including exercise and cognitive training to support mental wellbeing in old age.

The launch took place on Thursday 11th May, at Cardiff University’s Hadyn Ellis Building. The event showcased the valuable work being undertaken by the institute, and included presentations from each of the co-directors, as well external partners, and Early Career Researchers. There was also opportunity to meet with representatives from a variety of partner institutions at their exhibition stands, and view research posters.

Over 125 people were in attendance, and guests included researchers from Cardiff University and beyond, key external funders, and representatives from industry - including Takeda, Simbec-Orion, and Janssen UK.

The institute was particularly delighted to welcome as their keynote speaker Professor Heather Stevens, Founder and Chair of The Waterloo Foundation. The Waterloo Foundation is a grant-making trust which supports child development, world development and the environment. The Neuroscience and Mental Health Innovation Institute has enjoyed a successful partnership with The Waterloo Foundation for almost a decade, and in that time has nurtured over a dozen junior research fellows through its ’Changing Minds and Future Minds Programmes’.

Professor Lawrence Wilkinson, Lead Co-Director of the Institute, said: "This launch was all about demonstrating the evolution of the Neuroscience and Mental Health Innovation Institute, and was an opportunity for us to showcase our work, and to tell people about our exciting plans for the future."

The Neuroscience and Mental Health Innovation Institute is part of a £5.4 million investment from Cardiff University in five innovation and research institutes to tackle the biggest issues facing society, the economy, and the environment.