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Landmark for mental health research at Cardiff

02 July 2009

Rhodri Morgan, First Minister for Wales, joins with the MRC and the University to celebrate a landmark first for mental health at Cardiff.Rhodri Morgan, First Minister for Wales, joins with the MRC and the University to celebrate a landmark first for mental health at Cardiff.

The fight against mental and degenerative brain diseases has been boosted by a multi-million pound investment in the University’s world-leading neuropsychiatric research.

The Medical Research Council (MRC) has approved the establishment of the Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics at the University – the first MRC Centre in Wales and the first aimed specifically at harnessing the genetics revolution for research in mental disorders. It is also supported by funding from the Welsh Assembly Government’s Wales Office of Research and Development (WORD) and the University itself, totalling more than £4 million.

The Centre will tackle mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s, and developmental disorders like dyslexia and childhood depression. Its main aims are:

  • Using genetics to improve understanding of the major disorders of the brain, building on the existing world-leading research expertise at the University
  • Training a new generation of scientists who can put this knowledge into practice with patients
  • A series of public events to break down misunderstandings about mental disease and genetic science
  • Creating a new professorship in translating our genetic knowledge into practical treatments.

The Centre opened in April under the directorship of Professor Mike Owen of the University’s School of Medicine and has been officially launched by First Minister for Wales, Rhodri Morgan.

Professor Owen said: "Over the next five years, we want to use technological advances to identify new genes which put people at risk of brain disorders. We then want to work out exactly how these genes affect the operation of the brain and, ultimately, start building treatments which can tackle some of these terrible diseases."

"We see the public engagement work as central to our mission. Our research projects need a large amount of data from a large number of volunteers and public support is vital. However, a great many myths and taboos still surround both mental illness and genetics. We aim to break down these barriers and bring the results of our research closer to the public."

The First Minister said: "This is the first MRC Research Centre in Wales. Mental illnesses are such a high priority that the prospect of using the latest genetic research to improve the long-term chances of finding cures has to be worthy of public investment and public support.

"I know that Professor Owen has a huge reputation in the field and that is why the Medical Research Council is backing this centre and so are we through our WORD grant. I wish the research team every success."

Declan Mulkeen, Director of Research and Training at the Medical Research Council said: "We are delighted to be opening this new MRC centre in Wales, in partnership with Cardiff University and the Wales Office of Research and Development, which will provide exciting new opportunities for future translational research based upon world class expertise in neuropsychiatric genetics. This investment is a key element in MRC’s research strategy in neurodegeneration and mental health."

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