Salk Institute to Co-Lead Effort to Find Treatments for Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder

San Diego research facility Salk Institute for Biological Studies is co-leading a $15.4 million stem cell-based effort to find drugs that work against schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

The effort, co-led with The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, will be taken on by a consortium of individuals from academic and nonprofit institutions, along with industry partners from Janssen Research & Development and stem cell manufacturer Cellular Dynamics International.

The group will be led by professors Rusty Gage of Salk and Hongjun Song of Johns Hopkins, according to a Salk news release.

The consortium plans to build a testing platform from induced pluripotent stem cells, which are cells typically taken from people's skin or blood and made to behave like embryonic stem cells. They can grow into any type of cell from there.

Once a solid platform is developed, the scientists will be able to screen existing libraries of drugs to see which are effective in treating the disorders. Johns Hopkins already maintains such a library.

"There has been a bottleneck in stem cell research," Song said in a statement "Every lab uses different protocols and cells from different patients, so it's really hard to compare results. This collaboration gathers the resources needed to create robust, reproducible tests that can be used to develop new drugs for mental health disorders."

In addition to Hopkins and Salk, the collaboration includes the University of Michigan and San Diego’s Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute.

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