The Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research - History

The Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research was launched in 2007 with transformative support from the philanthropists Ted and Vada Stanley, who, working with Founding Director Ed Scolnick, became convinced that genetics provided the best leads for deciphering the biology of psychiatric disorders, and thus, to finding urgently needed treatments. Together, Stanley Center scientists and collaborators have harnessed and advanced technologies and computational methods that associate variations in DNA sequences with risk of psychiatric disorders. We have encouraged the formation of large data-sharing consortia and assembled the world’s largest collection of DNA samples in psychiatric research — including samples for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, other psychiatric disorders, and healthy controls. Importantly, the Stanley Center has played a lead role in globalizing psychiatric genetics while contributing to the training of scientists in low and middle income countries.  Genetic studies conducted in diverse populations accelerates scientific discovery while advancing global mental health equity.

The Stanley Family Foundation’s generous, ongoing support and additional funding from other philanthropic partners has enabled researchers at the Stanley Center to drive research on severe psychiatric disorders, building a community and creating new tools and methods to uncover their genetics and biology. Thanks to these partnerships, we have helped transform the field and are making important advances in our understanding of their pathogenesis, the identification of biomarkers, and most importantly, the development of new treatments.

Below are brief descriptions of key milestones in Stanley Center-led research.


  • 🏢 The Stanley Center launches with Ed Scolnick as Founding Director, with transformative support from the philanthropists Ted and Vada Stanley, through the Stanley Medical Research Institute. (Broad news story)
  • 🌍 The Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGC), the largest consortium in the history of psychiatry, and the largest biological experiment in the field, launches with the Stanley Center scientists Ed Scolnick, Pamela Sklar, and Mark Daly as founding members.


  • 📄 A large study from the International Schizophrenia Consortium led by Pamela Sklar and Shaun Purcell uncovers a surprisingly diverse range of genomic alterations that contribute to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. This study provides exciting clues about the heritability of schizophrenia, and suggests that with a large enough sample size researchers could uncover specific variants associated with disease risk. Importantly, this study shows that genetic risk for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder is partly shared, and established polygenic risk scores for the first time in human disease genetics. (Nature, Broad news story)


  • 📅 In collaboration with MIT’s Picower Institute and McGovern Institute, the Stanley Center hosts its first two-day symposium , with the goal of bringing together leading scientists who work on the emerging genetics and biology of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism spectrum disorder, and other neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders. This symposium has since been hosted every two years to highlight progress in the field of psychiatric research.



  • 🏢 Steven Hyman, former director of the NIMH, joins the Broad Institute and assumes directorship of the Stanley Center. Ed Scolnick becomes Chief Scientist, Emeritus. (Broad news story)


  • 🏢 The Stanley Center Psychiatric Genetics Neuroscience Fellowship, offered with the MGH-McLean Hospital Adult Psychiatry Residency Program, is announced. The first fellow is Evan Macosko, who has since established his own lab within the Stanley Center.


  • 🏢 The Stanley family increases their commitment to Broad with an additional $650 million gift to the Stanley Center, bringing their total commitment to $825 million. The commitment — by far the largest ever made for psychiatric research — supports researchers affiliated with the center with the goal of “enhancing scientific research on psychiatric disorders with the hopes of leading to a breakthrough in new treatments.” Simultaneously, the Broad Institute celebrates the opening of the new Ted and Vada Stanley Building at 75 Ames Street, to which the Stanley Center relocates. (Broad news story)
  • 📄 In the largest genomic study published on any psychiatric disorder at the time, researchers from the Stanley Center, MGH, and scores of other institutions including Stephan Ripke, identify more than 100 locations in the human genome associated with the risk of developing schizophrenia. The findings point to biological mechanisms and pathways that may underlie schizophrenia, which may help lead to new approaches to diagnosis and treatment. (Nature, Broad news story)
  • 📄 Researchers from the Stanley Center contribute to two new studies comparing the exomes (the protein-coding regions of genomes) of people with schizophrenia and healthy controls. The studies pinpoint relevant mutations and identify patterns that reveal clues into schizophrenia biology. (Purcell et al, Nature, Fromer et al, Nature, Broad news story
  • 🌍 The Stanley Global Initiative — an effort to increase the ancestral diversity of genetic data available on psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders, and advance global equity in psychiatric research — begins forming partnerships with collaborators and institutions in many countries, eventually including Japan, China, South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Mexico. Stanley Global has since participated in and supported a number of landmark projects, including NeuroGAP, NeuroDev, NeuroMex, SUPER, and PUMAS.


  • 🏢 The Stanley Center and the New York Stem Cell Foundation join forces to develop a stem cell resource for schizophrenia and psychiatric diseases. (Broad news story
  • 📄 Stanley Center scientists Evan Macosko and Steven McCarroll and colleagues develop Drop-Seq, a high throughput method to sequence the RNA of single cells. Now widely used, Drop-Seq allows for the massive-scale analysis of individual cells at costs 500-fold lower than earlier approaches, and among other benefits helps researchers address the challenge of translating genetic results to biological understanding of disease. (Cell, Broad news story)



  • 📄 Scientists in the Stanley Center and at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital, including Steven McCarroll and Beth Stevens, discover that a variant of C4A, an immune system gene involved in synaptic pruning, increases the risk of developing schizophrenia. This landmark study provides the first rigorously tested insight into the biology behind any common psychiatric disorder. (Nature, Broad news story)

  • 📄 In a discovery led by Jen Pan, the Stanley Center Therapeutics team discovers the first isoform-selective inhibitors of the enzymes GSK3α and GSK3β . The discovery enables a unique approach to targeting these proteins in a variety of disease indications that may avoid the dose-limiting toxicities seen in prior attempts. (ACS Chemical Biology)


  • 📄 A team of researchers, including  Paola Arlotta, Giorgia Quadrato, and colleagues, spanning the Stanley Center, Harvard Medical School, and Harvard Stem Cell Institute develop techniques that allow brain organoids derived from human stem cells to grow and develop over periods of nine months or longer. Using Drop-Seq, they establish that the organoids generate a diversity of cell types and reach unprecedented levels of cell maturation. This work supports the development of next-generation, organoid-based disease models that will allow scientists to study previously-inaccessible aspects of human neurobiology. (Nature, Broad news story)

  • 🌍 GINGER, a Stanley Center initiative in collaboration with HSPH, launches to train the next generation of global researchers in genetics, epidemiology, and neuropsychiatry with program director Lori Chibnik, and associate director Bizu Gelaye. The first class of GINGER fellows draws students from Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, and Uganda.


  • 🏢 The Stanley Fellowship is renamed the Sklar Fellowship in memory of former Stanley Center member Pamela Sklar, who passed away in 2017. Sklar had moved to New York City in 2011 to become founding chief of the Division of Psychiatric Genomics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.


  • 🏢 Morgan Sheng, an accomplished physician-scientist who has done pioneering work in both academia and industry, joins the Stanley Center as co-director. Sheng works closely with Stanley Center director Steve Hyman to shape the center’s scientific vision and direction, and with Broad’s Center for the Development of Therapeutics to oversee Stanley’s therapeutic efforts.
  • 📊 The Global Research Initiative on Neurophysiology of Schizophrenia (GRINS) study, led by Jen Q. Pan, launches, with the goal of exploring the use of EEG readings of sleep spindles a biomarker for stratifying schizophrenia patient populations. 
  • 📄 Mapping gene expression at the single-cell level within tissues remains a technical challenge. Stanley Center researchers Fei Chen, Evan Macosko, and colleagues develop Slide-seq, a method for mapping the cellular organization within tissue slices utilizing a combination of RNA sequencing and DNA-barcoded beads. (Science, Broad news story
  • 🌍 A large international team, including Stanley Center researcher Hailiang Huang, reveals that genetics is as much a factor in schizophrenia risk in East Asians as in Europeans, but that the loci and allele frequencies associated with risk are somewhat different. They also find that polygenic scores developed with European data do a relatively poor job measuring schizophrenia risk in East Asians, reinforcing concerns that scientists may miss important clues about disease biology and opportunities for therapeutic and diagnostic development by overly relying on genetic data from people of European ancestry. (Nature Genetics
  • 📄 To speed progress in understanding synapse biology, the SYNGO Consortium, including many Stanley Center researchers, established in 2015, releases SYNGO 1.0: a comprehensive, expert-curated, ontology-guided knowledge base describing the neuroscience community’s current insights into the function and localization of more than 1,100 genes active at the synapse. (Neuron, Broad news story
  • 📄 A team of Stanley Center and Harvard researchers, led by Paola Arlotta, develops a new method for growing human brain organoids that consistently produces the same types of cells, in the same order, as the developing human cerebral cortex. (Nature, Broad news story)


  • 📊 The Populations Underrepresented in Mental illness Association Studies (PUMAS) Project, led by Benjamin Neale, part of the NIMH Ancestral Populations Network (APN), launches with the aim of generating and analyzing whole genome sequencing data on people from Africa and the Americas who are affected by schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Run by Stanley Center geneticists and collaborators, the project will explore similarities and differences in the genetic architecture of severe mental illness across diverse ancestries and environments.
  • 📄 Research driven by Sklar Fellow Robert Mealer finds that a common missense variant in the gene SLC39A8 is convincingly associated with schizophrenia and several additional phenotypes. Further study of the mechanisms underlying the variant's effects may lead to deeper understanding of schizophrenia pathogenesis and to novel therapeutic targets and biomarkers. (Scientific Reports)


  • 📊 The Schizophrenia Spectrum Biomarkers Consortium (SSBC), which is chaired by Steven Hyman, launches a clinical research study to collect biological samples and detailed clinical, cognitive, and neuroimaging data from individuals with schizophrenia spectrum disorders and individuals without these disorders, with the goal of identifying biomarkers.


  • 🏢 The Stanley Family Foundation commits an additional $46 million to accelerate the Stanley Center’s efforts to discover new therapeutics and therapeutic targets.

  • 📄 Researchers in the BipEx consortium, including Duncan Palmer and Benjamin Neale, analyze whole exome sequencing data from nearly 14,000 individuals with bipolar disorder and matching controls, identifying AKAP11 as a shared risk gene for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The study's results lend further support to the polygenic nature of bipolar disorder and establish AKAP11 as a significant risk factor. (Nature, Broad news story)

  • 📄 The SCHEMA Consortium, including Stanley Center researchers Tarjinder Singh, Benjamin Neale, and Mark Daly, identifies 10 genes in which rare protein coding variants confer substantial risk for schizophrenia. These genes — many of which have never before been associated with neurological function —  provide further insights into the underlying biological process of the disorder and may lead to new therapeutic targets. (Nature, Broad news story)

  • 🏢 The Asian Bipolar Genetics Network (A-BIG-NET), an international collaboration of investigators from the U.S., Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, India and Pakistan, led by the Stanley Center’s Hailiang Huang,  launches as part of NIMH’s Ancestral Populations Network( APN) to carry out a molecular genetics study of bipolar disorder in East and South Asia. (Broad news story)


  • 🏢 The Stanley Center is awarded $10 million by BD² (Breakthrough Discoveries for thriving with Bipolar Disorder) to sequence 100,000 samples from a diverse population of people with bipolar disorder, matched with healthy controls. This will be the largest dataset of its kind for bipolar disorder, fueling much-needed gene discovery and addressing a historic lack of inclusiveness in psychiatric research. (BD² press release

  • 📄Stanley Center researchers, including Zohreh Farsi and Morgan Sheng, assess in mice the molecular and behavioral phenotypes associated with mutations in GRIN2A, one of 10 genes identified in the SCHEMA study. Their work demonstrates the validity of the GRIN2A-deficient genetic mouse model of schizophrenia, lends support to two long-debated hypotheses in the field, and unveils new clues about the biological roots of the disorder. (Neuron, Broad news story