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NIMH Funding Fewer Trials

Since shifting to bolster studies that examine the biological basis of disease, the US National Institute of Mental Health has funded fewer clinical trials than it used to, Nature News reports.

The new initiative, launched in 2011, encourages researchers to focus on brain circuitry and genetics of disease rather than the symptoms clinicians use to diagnose disease, it adds, noting that the initiative arose out of concerns that mental health research wasn't delivering effective enough treatments. But Nature News reports that the number of NIMH-funded clinical trials fell by 45 percent between 2009 and 2015.

This new focus on basic research has irked a number of clinical researchers, Nature News says. "It is fair to say we needed a better understanding of the neuroscience [of mental illness] to stop flailing around in the darkness," the Broad Institute's Roy Perlis tells Nature News. "But I think we understand enough about the neurobiology and genetics that now we should be making a strong push into clinical research."

Joshua Gordon, the NIMH director who took office about a year ago, has said that adhering to this framework isn't required for getting a grant, but that the agency is continuing with it, though it is making some tweaks to the program.