Innovative mental health grants awarded to Sydney Researchers

Two Sydney research teams were awarded over $3 million by the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) under the Australian Government’s Innovative Therapies for Mental Illness Grant.

The Mental Illness grant aims to accelerate global efforts to find new treatments for mental illness.

The international trial, awarded $1,951,246, will be led by Associate Professor Kirsten Morley from the Faculty of Medicine and Health with Professor Katherine Mills, Professor Paul Haber, Professor Maree Teesson and Professor Andrew Baillie. The project will examine the efficacy of MDMA-assisted therapy to treat combined Alcohol Use Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“There is a high rate of comorbidity between alcohol use disorders and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which is associated with greater clinical impairment, poorer prognosis and greater treatment attrition,” Associate Professor Morley said.

“We urgently require innovative integrated treatments that can enhance outcomes for patients with these treatment resistant complexities. One promising agent that can enhance psychotherapy is 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA).

“It is hoped that this psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy trial will be able to demonstrate improved clinical outcomes, especially in those patients where other treatments have failed.”

Professor Stephen Touyz

Professor Stephen Touyz from the Faculty of Science, Charles Perkins Centre and InsideOut Institute and his team were awarded $1,175,522 for PANOREXIA: A clinical trial of Psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy in anorexia nervosa. The trial will build on strong international collaborations to assess the safety and efficacy of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy for patients for whom conventional anorexia nervosa treatment hasn’t worked.

“We need to constantly remind ourselves that anorexia nervosa continues to have one of the highest mortality rates in psychiatry. It is an extremely debilitating and pervasive disorder that can result in immense suffering for those afflicted by it and a nightmare for those caring for a loved one or friend,” Professor Touyz said.

“It is hoped that this psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy trial will be able to demonstrate improved clinical outcomes, especially in those patients where other treatments have failed.”

Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, said the Government’s MRFF is helping ensure that Australia’s medical research sector remains at the forefront of global innovation.

“It is vital that we continue to support the search for new and better treatments for mental illness. This funding will boost local research into potentially life-saving therapies and offers hope all those suffering from mental illness,” Minister Hunt said.

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