UCLA Depression Grand Challenge kicks off demonstration projects and cores

December 16, 2015

After a rigorous review process, the Depression Grand Challenge (DGC) selected seven early demonstration projects and three research cores to receive internal seed funding over a two-year period. More than 100 investigators from 20 departments teamed up to submit 60 proposals. Each of the chosen projects has two goals:

1.   Make meaningful research discoveries
2.  Establish feasibility, infrastructure and protocols for later scaled up DGC programs

The proposals were received in response to two internal funding opportunity solicitations, one focused on basic and translational science and a second focused on human/clinical projects. It is expected that a third call for proposals, focusing on engaging scholars from the social sciences, humanities and the arts, will follow in 2016.The solicitation and evaluation processes emphasized collaboration both vertically—from basic through clinical science—and horizontally—across department lines, ranging from physical and life sciences to engineering to neurosurgery. Nine investigators submitted proposals to both solicitations, showing a true blurring of traditional lines.

The funded proposals went through several rounds of review, including internal cross-disciplinary teams and external experts, with final selections made by the DGC faculty leadership.

Demonstration Projects

A framework for large scale screening and investigation of mood disorder risk in the UCLA Community
Investigators: Carrie Bearden, Bob Bilder, Michael Gitlin, David Miklowitz, Connie Hammen, and Joan Asarnow

Shared mechanisms of migraine and depression
Investigator: Andy Charles

Biomarkers of fast acting treatment interventions in major depressive disorder
Investigators: Eliza Congdon, Katherine Narr, Michael Irwin, Randall Espinoza, Giovanni Coppola

Dissecting astrocyte roles in neural circuits relevant to depressive disorders
Investigators: Bal Khakh and Michael Sofroniew

Genetic studies of neuromodulation in Drosophila
Investigators: David Krantz, Mark Frye, Sunil Mehta, Felix Schweizer, Ya-Hong Xie, Jonathon Javitch, Andy Ewing

Mechanisms underlying action and stress-induced reorganization of corticostriatal subcircuits
Investigators: William Yang, Kathrin Plath, Giovanni Coppola

Reproductive Depression and the Effects of Novel Antidepressants
Investigator: Istvan Mody


Assessment Core
Lead Investigator: Bob Bilder

Imaging Core
Lead Investigator: Katherine Narr

Behavioral Core
Lead investigator: Michael Fanselow