Broad Institute 'PsychHTS' Initiative

To stimulate a flow of new ideas to treat psychiatric illnesses and potentially discover drugs with novel mechanisms of action, we initiated a new program in February 2009, enabled by funding from the Stanley Medical Research Institute. As described in a letter from Ed Scolnick to the neuroscience community announcing this special initiative and its goals, this is a unique opportunity for creative investigators to receive technical and financial support to implement their ideas while retaining their principal investigator status.

The need and opportunity for creative novel approaches to developing new treatments for mental illness have been highlighted recently in a Nature Editorial declaring the 2010s the ‘Decade for Psychiatric Disorders’, the NIMH Director’s post asking “Who Will Develop the Next Generation of Medications for Mental Illness?”, and a Science Policy Forum advocating an international project to identify the underlying genomics and neural circuits awry in psychiatric disease.

The ultimate purpose of this ‘PsychHTS’ program is to stimulate industry to pursue new targets for the treatment of psychiatric illnesses. This program is distinct and independent from the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research. It fits within the existing Broad Institute Chemical Biology and Novel Therapeutics (‘CBNT’) Programs’ process for proposing and executing high-throughput screening (HTS) projects.

Investigators will have the opportunity to gain advice from Dr. Edward Scolnick and a professional team at the Broad Institute in implementing their ideas while retaining their principal investigator status in the new effort. For this Initiative we will work with investigators who have novel innovative ideas relevant to psychiatric disease to (1) help formulate new screens; (2) develop such screens into a format suitable for HTS; and (3) do some follow-up work including medicinal chemistry.

A Nature Neuroscience Editorial (July 2009) stated ‘this new initiative, aiming to overcome the long stagnation in psychiatric drug development, is very welcome’. We want to welcome all interested researchers to contact us to learn more.

Application Process

Go to the Broad’s CBNT Pipeline page and download the application package (a zip file of 7 files). On the application (Word document #2), simply check off ‘psychiatric disease’ in the Section on ‘Area of Biology of Disease’. The application itself is short and very practical (<800 words total for Objective/ background and Aims, and <800 words for technical feasibility).

We encourage you to contact us, especially if you’re not used to thinking about high-throughput assays and just want to brainstorm about possible ideas for adapting your novel concepts to a feasible screen. The combined expertise within the Broad’s CBNT group is an amazing resource, and they love a challenge of adapting an experiment to a robust high-throughput assay. Examples of successful HTS assay types are: biochemical, cell-based, qPCR, FRET, thermal shift; using luminescent, colorimetric or fluorescent reporters or high-content image analysis.

Applications will be reviewed by an Application Review Committee consisting of experts in basic biology, neuroscience, disease biology and drug discovery. If your application is aligned with the Psychiatric Disease Program mission, as determined by the Application Review Committee, we will meet with you (in person or by phone) to review the readiness status of your assay(s). This discussion will be guided by the Broad Institute High-Throughput Assay Readiness Assessment document. Assays that are deemed ready for assay development at the facility and which meet secondary considerations (balancing of the Broad HTS portfolio, funding obligations, technical feasibility etc.) will be accepted for execution during the next available screening slot at the facility. Accepted projects will require a completed DSA and MTA to be in place prior to project initiation.

Contact Us

If you have any questions, please email

Related Info

Broad Institute Chemical Biology Platform

Broad Institute Chemical Biology Collaboration Process

MLPCN, Broad Institute Probe Development Center (BIPDeC) pipeline