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Funding partnership launches $1M schizophrenia research program


Saskatoon, SK December 11, 2003 The University of Saskatchewan and its partners have announced a $1-million, five-year schizophrenia research program that could lead to earlier diagnosis and improved treatment for people with the serious brain disorder.

In addition to basic research, the goal of the new program at the university’s Neuropsychiatry Research Unit (NRU) is to develop, apply and evaluate a range of interventions, services and products for people with schizophrenia. Funding comes from pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca Canada ($700,000); the Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research ($115,000); Royal University Hospital Foundation ($75,000); the Schizophrenia Research Foundation Saskatchewan ($35,000); and the Saskatoon chapter of the Schizophrenia Society of Saskatchewan ($30,000). The College of Medicine will provide $45,000 through 10 summer studentships, each worth $4,500.

“This partnership will build on U of S strengths in neuroscience research, contributing to new understanding of this devastating illness which exacts a huge toll in direct and indirect health care costs annually in Canada,” says Steven Franklin, U of S vice-president research. “With this new funding, the unit will be able to add at least 20 post-doctoral fellows, research associates and graduate students over the next five years, providing a superb training ground and advancing the NRU as a national centre of excellence for schizophrenia research.”

“The Schizophrenia Research Program Partnership is our single largest investment in Saskatchewan, and we look forward to the innovations in the management and treatment of schizophrenia that will result from it,” said Kazi Borkowski, vice president of medical affairs for AstraZeneca Canada. “It’s exciting for us to be involved in a project which allows us to both strengthen our commitment to health care, and support the world-class research being conducted at the University of Saskatchewan.”

During the project, a multidisciplinary team of 13 U of S researchers will collaborate to study the underlying molecular and neurochemical mechanisms of the disease, as well as drug interactions, clinical studies, identification of early risk indicators, and treatment outcome studies. In particular, the program will look at the potential of some antipsychotic drugs to protect individuals from central nervous system disorders such as depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.

Dr Xin-Min Li, NRU director and principal researcher, said the research will extend from genes examined in the laboratory to clinical research to the community. “This funding will be the catalyst for establishing a first-rate multidisciplinary group in schizophrenia research and ensuring that Saskatchewan patients with schizophrenia will be the beneficiaries of leading-edge discoveries and improved services,” he adds.