Ann Arbor’s U-M Receives $10M to Improve Bipolar Disorder Care

Gifts to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor will allow researchers to bring more precision care to people with bipolar disorder. Nearly 6 million Americans have the disorder, a mental health condition that sends them on a cycle of manic highs and depressed lows.
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Judith Tam, Dr. Sachin Kheterpal
U-M has received a gift from the Richard Tam Foundation for bipolar disorder research. Pictured are Judith Tam (left), president of the foundation, and Dr. Sachin Kheterpal, co-director of Precision Health at U-M. // Photo courtesy of Michigan Medicine

Gifts to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor will allow researchers to bring more precision care to people with bipolar disorder. Nearly 6 million Americans have the disorder, a mental health condition that sends them on a cycle of manic highs and depressed lows.

The gifts will expand and harness the power of massive data from U-M bipolar research and will allow researchers to combine the info with other data. A $5.8 million gift from the Richard Tam Foundation brings its total giving for the research to $10 million. Support includes $500,000 for Precision Health at U-M, Precision Health’s first major gift.

Finding treatment for those with bipolar disorder to steady moods takes time and luck. Some patients never find medications that work for them, and as many as one in five die by suicide.

“Precision health could help doctors figure out the right medicine to give to a particular patient much more quickly and could expand their toolbox through new discoveries,” says Judith Tam, president of the foundation. “We’ve got brilliant people here, and I’ve seen the passion in their eyes when they talk about their research. They’re not just doing their work and going home. They are on fire.”

The foundation has given to U-M’s bipolar work since 2014 and is helping to fuel the growth of the Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Program that has collected genetic samples and other data from people with or without bipolar disease for more than 13 years.

“Our Precision Health initiative is developing unprecedented insights into human health and disease, and I’m grateful to Judith Tam for her generous support,” says Mark Schlissel, president of U-M.

“This gift from the Richard Tam Foundation will enhance our bipolar disorder research by taking advantage of the genetic and lab test data platform assembled by our Precision Health Initiative at U-M, resulting in improved care for millions of patients.”

The gift also will create a Tam Precision Health and Bipolar Collaboration Fund within Precision Health. Precision Health was launched in early 2018 and offers U-M researchers access to genetic and clinical data, tools, expertise, training, and funding.

“We absolutely need to leverage our Precision Health platform to advance and support the pace of discovery research,” says said Marschall Runge, U-M executive vice president for medical affairs. “We are highly committed to collecting more robust bipolar research data, as well as information on other therapeutic treatments that would benefit from a very personalized approach.”

A professorship in the Department of Psychiatry at Michigan Medicine also will be created through the gift. Its proposed name is the Richard Tam Professorship in Translational Bipolar Research, pending approval by the U-M Board of Regents. The position will allow the recruitment of another bipolar researcher.

“The work that we’re doing with Precision Health is absolutely fundamental and transformational in terms of the future of medicine, the future of mental health research, and the future of our understanding of various different human illnesses,” says Tam.

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