19 August 2013

Note to media: Video link at end of story

A $3.75 million investment in research at The University of Queensland (UQ) will advance innovative work on the link between vitamin D and mental health.

The prestigious National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) John Cade Fellowship, announced today at 10.30am, will provide Professor John McGrath with $750,000 a year for five years to study ways to prevent serious mental health disorders such as schizophrenia.

Professor McGrath and his colleagues at UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) have discovered that low vitamin D during early life is a risk factor for schizophrenia.

“We have published a major case-control study based on Danish neonatal blood spots that has confirmed a direct link between vitamin D concentration and schizophrenia,” Professor McGrath said.

The NHMRC John Cade Fellowship will enable Professor McGrath to examine the association between early life vitamin D and childhood brain development, as well as later mental health and brain-related outcomes.

The research will involve studies of Brisbane-based and international cohorts.

“The fellowship will also help establish clinical trials in Queensland and train junior psychiatrists in clinical neuroscience at QBI,” Professor McGrath said.

UQ President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Høj congratulated Professor McGrath, who is “an exemplar of UQ researchers whose work delivers strong benefits to individuals, families and society,” Professor Høj said.

“A five-year fellowship such as this, which allows research to be targeted at a critical health issue while also supporting training of young specialists, is a great investment with potential to benefit individuals, families and society.”

QBI Director Professor Perry Bartlett said Professor McGrath’s research was an outstanding example of the innovative work produced at the Institute.

“When Professor McGrath and his colleagues first began exploring the idea of a link between vitamin D and schizophrenia he was taking mental health research into unchartered territory,” Professor Bartlett said.

“It’s bold steps like this that keep UQ’s work at the forefront of brain research,” he said.

John Cade Fellowships recognise visionary, innovative mental health research leaders with outstanding records and international achievements.

Video grabs of Professor John McGrath are available here.

Media Contact: QBI Mikaeli Costello +61 7 3346 0542 or mikaeli.costello@uq.edu.au

NHMRC John Cade Fellowship in Mental Health Research

The NHMRC John Cade Fellowship in Mental Health Research implements the third and final element of the Government’s $26.2 million strategic investment in mental health research and aims to build national leadership and expand capacity in Australian mental health research.

These prestigious Fellowships are named after Dr John Cade AM (1912-1980), an Australian psychiatrist working in Melbourne after World War II, who discovered the effectiveness of lithium as a treatment for bipolar disorder. This discovery provided a transformative alternative to the existing therapies of shock treatment or prolonged hospitalisation and was a significant breakthrough in the pharmacological treatment of mental illness.

Queensland Brain Institute
The Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) at The University of Queensland (UQ) is a world-leading research facility focused on discovering the fundamental mechanisms that regulate brain function. Unlike research institutes that focus on a specific disease or condition, QBI is structured to study the brain’s fundamental molecular and physiological mechanisms. QBI researchers are working to unlock the mysteries the neurodegenerative disease and mental health disorders which currently account for a staggering 45 per cent of the burden of disease in Australia.