Unis join forces on mental health, addiction and neuroscience research

13 November 2015

The University of Sydney and UNSW Australia have announced an historic medical research partnership to help tackle two of the biggest challenges of our time – mental illness and addiction.

UNSW Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs (left) with Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney Dr Michael Spence (right). 

Depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol problems, and other psychiatric disorders are currently responsible for almost 25 per cent of health-related disability globally, with many people enduring great suffering from an early age.

Recent advances in genetics and brain imaging technologies are providing new hope of unlocking the secrets of the causes of mental illnesses and addiction, paving the way for breakthrough treatments.

Australian researchers have been at the forefront of innovative new approaches and both UNSW and the University of Sydney have made major commitments in mental health and addiction research.

But the scale of the challenge means high-quality collaboration and a new research model are required.

The Mental Health, Addiction and Neuroscience Research Memorandum of Understanding provides a framework to bring together world-leading experts from the State's two leading Group of Eight universities for the first time.

The unprecedented collaboration between UNSW and the University of Sydney will enable the universities to maximise the impact and benefits of their research and enhance opportunities to attract research funding and academic expertise.

The vision and strategic direction for the agreement has been led jointly by the Vice-Chancellors, UNSW’s Professor Ian Jacobs and Sydney's Dr Michael Spence. The agreement comes at a critical time for mental health and neuroscience research and will enable the universities to work in partnership with the NSW government and its agencies to deliver better outcomes.

UNSW President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs, said: "The devastating impact of mental illness and addiction on individuals, families and society cannot be overstated. This historic agreement will facilitate a research effort of sufficient scale and resources to address the major challenges in this field – something not possible for individual institutions to achieve alone.

"We now have within our grasp the potential for major breakthroughs in understanding these conditions and, ultimately, the development of treatments to alleviate suffering. By combining the world-leading expertise of UNSW and the University of Sydney, our research will have a much greater impact," Professor Jacobs said.

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney, Dr Michael Spence, said the agreement marks an important step towards closer alignment of the two universities and related health services in Sydney.

"These problems are too great for us not to be as efficient and collaborative as possible. With disorders of the brain and mind now accounting for more than 40 per cent of all health-related disability and costing the Australian economy an estimated $30 billion each year, we must find urgent solutions to reducing our over-reliance on crisis care and other hospital based services," Dr Spence said.

The agreement was signed by the two Vice-Chancellors at NSW Parliament House with the Minister for Mental Health and Medical Research, the Hon Pru Goward MP.

The Minister congratulated UNSW and the University of Sydney on their historic medical research partnership.

"The importance of these two organisations working together cannot be underestimated.

"It is great to see some of our best minds from two leading institutions coming together to share knowledge and work collaboratively to improve the quality of research into mental health, addiction and neuroscience.

"I hope this partnership serves as a successful pilot that will encourage more research teams to work more closely together to turn research outcomes into improved outcomes for patients," Minister Goward said.

About the Mental Health, Addiction and Neuroscience Research MOU

UNSW Australia and the University of Sydney will establish a collaborative and visible partnership in mental health, addiction and neuroscience research. The aim is to combine and consolidate research excellence in specific areas identified across the broad spectrum of mental health and neuroscience research – from fundamental research to translational clinical expertise – to attain national and international leadership and recognition; to maximise opportunities to attract funding; to develop and attract academic expertise; and to maximise the impact of the research.

Kirsten Andrews

Vice-President (External Relations)
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