NAMI Sees Cure for Schizophrenia as Possible in 10 Years

Schizophrenia Update, December 2003

Thursday October 23, 4:29 pm ET

The NAMI Policy Research Institute (NPRI) today announced creation of a Task Force on Serious Mental Illness Research, co-chaired by Edward Scolnick, MD, president emeritus of Merck Research Laboratories and NAMI medical director Ken Duckworth, MD, former mental health commissioner for Massachusetts.

The Executive Committee of NAMI's Scientific Council, chaired by Jack Gorman, MD, Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, will help coordinate the effort.

"NAMI takes seriously the statement of Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH), that with the right investments, scientists are within reach of finding a cure for schizophrenia in the next ten years," said NAMI national executive director Richard C. Birkel, PhD. "The critical challenge is to set the right priorities for research investments and to insist that the clinical research enterprise translates readily into real world practice. In the long run these investments will mean both lives and money saved."

"Recent advances in biomedicine, including the decoding of the human genome, make possible a revolution in the treatment of psychiatric illnesses, a revolution that is already underway for other serious diseases," Scolnick said. "The fact that we have the knowledge and tools to develop newer, better-targeted medication for illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, with fewer side effects, demands that we make the appropriate research investments. The mission of the task force is to help provide a roadmap for that revolution."

"We also must invest in research that will make the effective interventions already achieved, along with those still to come, available to every individual with a serious mental illness as quickly as possible," said Duckworth.

NIMH, the main federal agency responsible for funding research on serious mental illnesses -- with a budget of more than $1.3 billion in fiscal year 2003 -- will be the focus of the task force's work.

"Given the unprecedented research opportunities that exist today, it is essential that NIMH use all of its resources wisely to expedite treatment advances in serious mental illness," said Gorman.



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