Rohini Nilekani Philanthropies Grants INR 100 Crores to NIMHANS and NCBS to Accelerate Research and Treatment of Five Major Mental Health Disorders

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Bangalore: Rohini Nilekani Philanthropies announces a grant of Rs. 100 Crores to the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) and the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) to set up the ‘Centre for Brain and Mind’. The Centre will further cutting-edge research to understand the causes, correlates, and course of five major illnesses – schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, dementia, and addiction, and explore potential interventions and treatments for them.

Under this MoU, Rohini Nilekani Philanthropies Foundation, founded by philanthropist Rohini Nilekani, will support the activities of the ‘Centre for Brain and Mind’ (CBM) for five years starting April 2023. Over five years, CBM will simultaneously pursue two tracks – long-term research and building capacity for both research and practice in the mental health field.

Approximately 193 million people in India suffer from various forms of mental illness, and there is a need to find better ways of diagnosis and clinical management for many of these disorders. This multidisciplinary, inter-institutional partnership between NIMHANS and NCBS (with inStem) will contribute greatly to the broader field of mental health. 

Commenting on the grant, Rohini Nilekani, Chairperson, Rohini Nilekani Philanthropies, said: “Mental health is an area that demands more attention and support. The recent pandemic brought out this need even more starkly. Through this grant, I hope that a collaboration between two apex institutions of this country will provide globally relevant insights, evidence and pathways for better treatment for millions of people in India and the world. The Centre for Brain and Mind hopes to build an ecosystem for the larger community of mental health practitioners. Its research on five critical disorders, which will no doubt be pathbreaking, will be open-sourced to allow more innovation in both academics and practice. I wish the Centre all success and hope it becomes a global hub for sharing knowledge in the years to come.”

Since 2016, NIMHANS, along with NCBS and inStem, have been collaborating on a project (then supported by the Department of Biotechnology and Pratiksha Trust), to build a research platform for facilitating the discovery of better solutions for mental illness. The research platform is now ready to drive discovery in this area and will be housed at the Centre for Brain and Mind, which will be co-located at NCBS and NIMHANS.

This new grant will strengthen the existing practices, allow the database and repository to become open source, and reach its potential of maximum utilisation by scientists all over the world. The capacity-building component of CBMs work will entail better methods of public engagement, as the Centre will do public-facing interventions around severe mental illness to reduce stigma and enhance awareness. It will also devise actionable measures to address causes that lead to vulnerability in developing a mental illness or ameliorate the progression of disease in those who have developed an illness. By developing a core group of clinician researchers and basic scientists skilled in critical technologies and novel methods, the Centre will also establish a pipeline of younger researchers to carry forward this long-term enquiry.

Speaking about the potential of this grant, Dr Pratima Murthy, Director, NIMHANS, said: “NIMHANS has been collaborating with NCBS and inStem to study a large number of families of patients with severe mental illnesses and generate a longitudinal cohort. The in-depth biological and clinical assessment of this cohort has immense potential for breakthrough discoveries, with implications in turn for translation into better care for persons with mental illnesses. We are delighted to house at NIMHANS the Centre for Brain and Mind, which will allow us to carry forward and expand this important research.  We are thankful to Rohini Nilekani Philanthropies for supporting this important initiative that is long-term and visionary.”

Prof. LS Shashidhara, Director, NCBS-TIFR commented, “NCBS-TIFR, along with NIMHANS and inStem, has built a platform to facilitate discovery science that leads to better solutions for mental illness. The financial support from Rohini Nilekani Philanthropies will allow us to pursue long-term research on patients. This will allow insights into mental illness and how it develops and impacts brain function. Such understanding will enable the development of novel medicines. We are grateful to Rohini Nilekani Philanthropies for their generous grant to boost our research.”