Record-breaking grant: New research project to investigate the causes of mental disorders

Professor Preben Bo Mortensen from Aarhus University, Business and Social Sciences forms part of a new research project, which has recently received DKK 121m. This is the largest research grant ever awarded to a Danish research team in this field. As part of an interdisciplinary collaboration, Danish researchers will aim to understand mental disorders and investigate the possibilities for prevention and treatment.

Is it possible to prevent the development of schizophrenia? Can certain people develop autism if they carry a specific gene and have been exposed to a viral fetal infection? Should all ADHD patients take the same type of medication?

This unique, interdisciplinary research project will try to answer these questions. The project is primarily based at Aarhus University and will be known as The Lundbeck Foundation’s Initiative for Integrative Psychiatric Research, ‘iPSYCH’. The grant of DKK 121m from the ‘Lundbeck Foundation’ is the largest grant ever awarded to Danish psychiatric research.

Professor Preben Bo Mortensen from the National Centre for Register-based Research at Aarhus University, Business and Social Sciences is one of the leading researchers that constitute the iPSYCH team. He is responsible for the part of the project that will establish the importance of and interaction between environmental factors and genetic vulnerability. iPSYCH furthermore consists of researchers within psychiatry and genetics and collaborates with, for instance, SSI (State Serum Institute) under the Ministry of Health, Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI), deCode Genetics in Iceland and the Genetic Biobank of the Faroe Islands.

In combination, this will provide unique opportunities for creating new, groundbreaking knowledge, which may result in better and more individualised treatment of patients by considering genetic profile, environmental factors and clinical symptoms collectively.

- The register data, biobank data and the tools that we use do not exist anywhere else in the world - and they will not in the near future. Therefore, we are the only ones who can provide this type of research, says Preben Bo Mortensen.

- We will investigate why some people develop mental disorders. We will identify biological disease mechanisms, and we also intend to provide the basis for better treatment and prevention, says Anders Børglum, Professor of Medical Genetics at Aarhus University and Scientific Director of the research project.

The many faces of psychiatry
The project will study five specific mental disorders: schizophrenia, manic depression, depression, autism and ADHD. All disorders are associated with major human and societal costs all over the world. What is new is that the researchers will study these disorders from many different angles, ranging from genes and cells to population studies, from fetus to adult, from cause to symptoms of the disorder, and this knowledge will be combined in new ways across scientific fields.   

- People suffering from a mental disorder such as schizophrenia may have very different lives: a family life with children and a job – or a life characterised by chronic disease and homelessness. The disorders do not affect all patients in exactly the same way. We do not know why, but we do know that our current treatment methods are far from optimal because we need more knowledge about the causes behind the disorders, but also about the differences in the development, says Anders Børglum.

- Our main goal is to identify the biological causes of these disorders by studying the interplay between genetic and environmental factors and thereby find new targets for treatment. The perspective is to offer better and individualised treatment, providing a better life for each individual patient with the disorder – and perhaps even ways to prevent the development of the disorder in some cases, says Anders Børglum.

Mikael Rørth, Professor, M.D. and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the ‘Lundbeck Foundation’, is pleased with the research opportunities that the new grant will offer:

- Mental disorders are determined by a combination of genetic and psychosocial factors. The research project will combine unique Danish registers and biobanks and is expected to pave the way for better treatment in the future, says Mikael Rørth.

The iPSYCH project team consists of the following researchers:

  • Professor Anders Børglum, Aarhus University and Aarhus University Hospital (Scientific Director of iPSYCH):; tel.: +45 8716 7768 or +45 60202720
  • Professor Ole Mors, Aarhus University and Aarhus University Hospital:; tel.: +45 7847 1166
  • Professor Preben Bo Mortensen, Aarhus University:; tel.: +45 8716 5359
  • Professor Thomas Werge, Mental Health Services in the Capital Region of Denmark:; tel.: +45 4633 4968
  • Professor Merete Nordentoft, Mental Health Services in the Capital Region of Denmark:; tel.: +45 3531 6239.

Further information:

  • Anne-Marie Engel, Director of Research, the Lundbeck Foundation:; tel.: +45 3912 8000.