Chapman Perelman Foundation Donates $500K to Columbia’s Institute of Genomic Medicine and the Department of Psychiatry

Gift advances genomics as a tool for understanding mental illness

February 20, 2018

New York, NY (February 20, 2018)—The Chapman Perelman Foundation will contribute $500,000 to Columbia University Irving Medical Center’s (CUIMC) Institute of Genomic Medicine (IGM) and the Department of Psychiatry to investigate the genetic causes of mental illness.

 

This gift will be used to pilot a 2-year study to identify different genotypes in up to 200 patients with chronic and severe forms schizophrenia and related psychotic disorders. This groundbreaking research project will enable the IGM and the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia to explore the underlying genetic and molecular causes of these particularly devastating forms of mental illness.

 

“This generous gift from the Chapman Perelman Foundation provides an important opportunity to apply cutting edge science in an attempt to rescue people with refractory mental conditions,” said Jeffrey Lieberman, MD, the Lawrence C. Kolb Professor of Psychiatry and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at CUIMC.

 

With this highly innovative study, the Columbia research team will be able to pave the way for a paradigm shift in the field of psychiatry by ultimately introducing a precision medicine-based approach to the diagnostics and treatment of severe psychiatric diseases. Anna Chapman, MD, the President of the Chapman Perelman Foundation, noted that “in recent years, advances in precision medicine has led to breakthroughs in the understanding and treatment of cancers and other conditions, while similar progress in the domain of neuropsychiatry has lagged. We hope that this unique study will transform our understanding of some fundamental brain mechanisms, and open up entirely new treatment avenues.”

 

New evidence suggests that individuals with more severe forms of mental illness may have more clearly identifiable and robust genetic risk factors than those with milder illnesses. “Disease-causing mutations were found in nearly a quarter of the patients we studied,” said Sander Markx, MD, the Director of the Center for Precision Neuropsychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center, who conducted a preliminary genetic study of 50 patients who all spent many years hospitalized with severe forms of mental illness. “While scientists have known that genetic factors are a strong determinant of mental health, clinical psychiatry has been unable to utilize genetic testing for aiding diagnosis and precision medicine-based treatment. With help from the Chapman Perelman Foundation, our new research study has the potential to pave the way for genetic sequencing to become a standard part of the initial diagnostic work up and allocation of treatment for severe forms of mental illness.”

 

The project may be used as a working model to begin sequencing the DNA of mentally ill patients at facilities throughout New York State and ultimately throughout the country.

 

Drs. Markx, Anthony Zoghbi, MD, and David Goldstein, PhD, the John E. Borne Professor of Genetics and Development at CUIMC and Director of the IGM, are the principal scientists of the program.  

 

“Our ultimate ambition is to better understand the underlying biology of mental illness, and develop targeted treatments,” said Dr. Goldstein. “This precision medicine approach has the potential to improve the lives of New York State’s sickest patients. Although this is an admittedly ambitious goal, the framework for this path forward has been validated and successfully applied in other disease areas. With the support of the Chapman Perelman foundation, we intend to pioneer this approach in neuropsychiatry.”

 

The Chapman Perelman Foundation has donated over $2.3 million to support programs in the CUIMC Department of Psychiatry, including new projects that apply precision medicine technology to improve the treatment of mental illness. 

 

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The Chapman Perelman Foundation, led by Dr. Anna Chapman and Ronald O. Perelman, provides financial and strategic support to innovative, early-stage initiatives. The foundation focuses on mental health and medical research, education, and environmental causes.

 

The Institute for Genomic Medicine drives innovation in genomic medicine through cutting-edge research, clinical applications and outreach efforts. The Institute’s multi-tiered approach to genomic medicine utilizes large scale genomic sequencing and analysis, paired with functional biology to advance the diagnosis, characterization, and treatment of genetic diseases. As part of Columbia University's overall Precision Medicine Initiative, the IGM is fully integrated into the research and clinical communities at Columbia University and New York-Presbyterian, and utilizes its expertise in genome sequencing, disease biology, and electronic medical records to develop and advance patient-centered precision medicine.

 

The Columbia University Department of Psychiatry is among the top ranked psychiatry departments in the nation and has contributed greatly to the understanding and treatment of brain disorders. Co-located at the New York State Psychiatric Institute on the New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center campus in Washington Heights, the department enjoys a rich and productive collaborative relationship with physicians in various disciplines at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. Columbia Psychiatry is home to distinguished clinicians and researchers noted for their clinical and research advances in the diagnosis and treatment of depression, suicide, schizophrenia, bipolar and anxiety disorders, eating disorders, substance use disorders, and childhood psychiatric disorders.

 

Columbia University Irving Medical Center provides international leadership in basic, preclinical, and clinical research; medical and health sciences education; and patient care. The medical center trains future leaders and includes the dedicated work of many physicians, scientists, public health professionals, dentists, and nurses at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Mailman School of Public Health, the College of Dental Medicine, the School of Nursing, the biomedical departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and allied research centers and institutions. Columbia University Irving Medical Center is home to the largest medical research enterprise in New York City and State and one of the largest faculty medical practices in the Northeast. For more information, visit cumc.columbia.edu or columbiadoctors.org.