The CommonMind Consortium (Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, University of Pittsburgh, and California Institute of Technology) to launch the BD² Brain Omics Platform

Newswise — WASHINGTONMarch 30, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- BD²: Breakthrough Discoveries for Thriving with Bipolar Disorder today announced its first grants, totaling $15 million, to advance scientific understanding of the genetic and biological foundations of bipolar disorder. These first-of-their-kind efforts aim to accelerate discovery and improve diagnosis and care for the more than 40 million people with bipolar disorder.

"These grants aim to close a fundamental gap in understanding of bipolar disorder," said Kent Dauten, a founding board member of BD² and longtime funder of bipolar disorder genetics research. "This foundational research is one step toward the many breakthroughs that will help all people with bipolar disorder thrive."

Bipolar disorder is highly heritable, meaning a parent can pass it on to their child, but it is unclear how and what genes contribute to bipolar. The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard; the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA); and the New York Genome Center will create the BD² Genetics Platform, performing genetic sequencing on one of the largest and most diverse populations of people with bipolar disorder. They will sequence more than 30,000 samples from people with bipolar disorder from Africa, Central America, South America, and Asia.

"In contrast to other mental illnesses, the existing sequencing data for bipolar disorder are too small to deliver strong genetic associations," said Benjamin Neale, PhD, co-director of the Broad Institute Program in Medical and Population Genetics and associate professor in the Analytic and Translational Genetics Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital. "This initiative will catalyze genetic discovery efforts for bipolar disorder and promises to deliver new biological insights, which we hope will be the foundation for new approaches to interventions."

The CommonMind Consortium, comprised of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, the University of Pittsburgh, and the California Institute of Technology, will launch the BD² Brain Omics Platform to study human brain tissue from people who lived with bipolar disorder.

"This state-of-the-art approach will aid in understanding neural changes in bipolar disorder on a molecular scale, an approach used in other brain disorders but is unprecedented in bipolar disorder studies," shared Panos Roussos, MD, PhD, director of the Center for Disease Neurogenomics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai.

The BD² Brain Omics Platform is a groundbreaking effort that will develop a brain atlas for bipolar disorder, a resource researchers will use to accelerate the understanding of how certain molecules contribute to bipolar disorder. The CommonMind Consortium will analyze the cells of pertinent regions in human brain tissue from people who lived with bipolar disorder and those who didn't have the disorder.

"The organizations being awarded today are at the forefront of research in genetics and molecular psychiatry," said Eric J. Nestler, MD, PhD, and chair of the scientific steering committee overseeing BD². "BD² is the driving force bringing together foundational and hypothesis-driven research in bipolar disorder. The discoveries from this research will over time enable long-sought advances in clinical care." 

These Omics and Genetics teams, identified through rigorous external peer review, will work closely with the scientific advisory committees, other funded teams, and the philanthropic investors to ensure their work transforms the field for people with bipolar disorder. 

"We are excited to see the vision for BD² coming to life," said Cara Altimus, PhD, managing director for BD² and senior director at the Milken Institute Center for Strategic Philanthropy. "We have supported new research and created scale and infrastructure that makes it possible to coordinate clinicians, researchers, and the lived experience community to create progress. This is just the beginning." 

About BD² 

Through an integrated, collaborative approach, BD²: Breakthrough Discoveries for thriving with Bipolar Disorder will address knowledge gaps in the basic disease mechanisms of bipolar disorder as well as factors influencing clinical approaches and outcomes. This initial $150 million effort provides an unprecedented opportunity to improve the lives of people with bipolar disorder and those yet to be diagnosed.

About the Milken Institute Center for Strategic Philanthropy

The Milken Institute Center for Strategic Philanthropy  advises individuals and foundations seeking to develop and implement transformational giving strategies. In addition, we provide resources and leadership to make the philanthropic landscape more effective. Our vision is for a more effective philanthropic ecosystem where dollars are spent strategically, donors realize the impact they seek, and people and the planet thrive.