Collaboration provides a healthy boost to psychiatric research

Date: 21 December 2012

Introduction: Statistics show that one in four people may encounter psychiatric problems at some point in their lives. Nevertheless, the scientific study of brain disorders is lagging behind in terms of priority and financial resources. CAPRI (Collaborative Antwerp Psychiatric Research Institute) is aiming to strengthen the field of psychiatry by collaborating with Janssen Research & Development, a division of Janssen Pharmaceutical NV. CAPRI has entered into a multi-year collaboration agreement with Janssen. This agreement will combine the research efforts of the University of Antwerp, Antwerp University Hospital and the Emmaus association.

Depression, anxiety, psychosis, addiction, bipolar disorder, and so on – the list of brain disorders is extremely long. “Unfortunately, there is a stigma to these problems”, observes Professor Bernard Sabbe (University of Antwerp). ”Although a gradual but noticeable change has begun to take place, improvements are still needed both to eliminate the taboo associated with these conditions and to increase the availability of funding for research. Flanders is a long way behind other countries in this regard”.

The collaboration between Janssen and CAPRI represents a serious step forward. Both partners have years of experience, and combining this experience will undoubtedly result in a higher level of research. Sabbe notes, “this will provide a boost to psychiatric research in Flanders. It will be conducted primarily at the new university psychiatric centre at St. Norbert’s Psychiatric Hospital in Duffel”.

Patient studies

For ten years, CAPRI has been involved in neuropsychiatric research efforts of the University of Antwerp, Antwerp University Hospital, the Antwerp Hospital Network (ZNA) and the Emmaus association. The centre focuses on schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, addiction and psychosomatic disorders, as well as on paediatric and adolescent psychiatry and forensic psychiatry.

The five-year project will involve scientific research into biomarkers, and scientific innovation in the areas of cognition, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease and severe mood disorders. Neuropsychiatric patient studies will also be initiated. “We are proud of this partnership’, says Professor Sabbe. ‘Janssen is an excellent partner for the academic world”.

Janssen leverages world-class discovery and development expertise and operational excellence to bring to market innovative, effective treatments in five therapeutic areas: cardiovascular and metabolism, immunology, infectious diseases and vaccines, neuroscience, and oncology. For more than 50 years Janssen has been a leader in neuroscience with many innovative products in psychiatry, neurology and pain.

Several PhD students and post-doctoral researchers will be working within the project. According to Professor Sabbe, “this project should be able to generate five doctoral theses. The collaboration will create a structural research framework, within which full-time research into the foundations and treatment of major psychiatric disorders will be conducted. We will also be seeking opportunities for collaboration with other partners in the mental health system. In this study, we will follow patients for several weeks, monitoring key psychological parameters such as mood, emotion and social interaction”.