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December 2016 Newsletter of the CRC for Mental Health 
From the CEO

The guiding principle of Cooperative Research Centres is that collaboration between industries, research and community groups can have an enormous impact on challenges facing Australia. As we near the end of 2016, we reflect that the core mission of the CRC for Mental Health - developing methods for accurate, early diagnosis of mental illnesses - remains a priority for all of these groups.

In the industry sector, 2016 has been marked by set-backs in clinical trials relating to treatments for mental illnesses. The need for decision tools based on biomarkers clearly remains a priority for the medical technologies and pharmaceuticals industry. We have greatly appreciated the enthusiasm displayed by pharmaceutical companies for productive engagement with the CRC for Mental Health. A number of our research projects have now progressed to the stage at which they are attracting considerable interest from industry with a particular focus on how our work can be translated into valuable new products and services to improve clinical medicine. We look forward to reporting on new developments soon.

The important contribution that medical technologies and pharmaceutical industries make to Australia's economy has been recognised in the recent establishment of the Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals Industry Growth Centre (MTPConnect), which is an Australian Government initiative whose mission is to accelerate the development of the sector. We look forward to working with MTPConnect to accelerate the translation and commercialisation of technologies arising from our research programs, to expand the career opportunities for our PhD students and early postdoctoral researchers and to promote the development of the sector as a whole. 

We are pleased that several significant new research collaborations were established in 2016. In particular, I'm delighted to welcome Deakin University as a Participant in the CRCMH. The exceptional team led by Professor Michael Berk contributes greatly to our discovery and implementation of novel therapies in the field mood disorders. I'm also pleased to announce that we have commenced a new collaboration with the Australian National Data Service (ANDS). Recognising the strategic importance of biobanks as valuable 'living infrastructure' which enables research into biomarkers for mental illness, we're working together to ensure that our biobank samples and data are preserved and accessible for future research well beyond the time horizon of our CRC. Furthermore, by extending the current functionality of our biobank databases, this work also potentially opens up new avenues for data access and analysis across many complementary datasets around the world. 

Our cohort of early career researchers has again proven to be a creative, collaborative and engaged group. In 2016, we launched a student-designed and led "Collaborative writing program". Developed by videoconference and utilised by our PhD students in Perth, Melbourne and Geelong, the program incorporates productivity techniques for writing and peer mentoring. In addition to these, our students continue to participate in monthly career development videoconferences and a number this year have tested their transferable skills by working on small projects with not-for-profit community groups who work in the mental health space. This ongoing initiative, the Publico Program, provides our students with the opportunity to improve their own career prospects while contributing to the community their research affects.

Finally and most importantly, it is worth reflecting that our research into early diagnosis can fundamentally change the lives of people living with mental illnesses. In the case of Alzheimer's disease, we know that disease progression begins at least20 years before the onset of symptoms. In the case of schizophrenia, we know that the first 2-5 years post diagnosis are crucial in setting the parameters for longer term recovery and outcome. The ability to diagnose these illnesses early and accurately will have a tangible impact on the types of clinical and therapeutic interventions available. 

To all those involved in the CRCMH, thank you for your dedication and contributions. I wish you all the very best for the holiday season.

- Professor Ian Cooke, CEO
 
Have your say on priority areas for future CRCs

The Australian Government is seeking submissions on priority research themes for upcoming selection rounds of the CRC Programme over the next two years. This may include alignment with the National Science and Research Priorities, industry growth sector priorities or other ideas for innovative, high-impact proposals.

You can have your say on priority areas here.
 
Holiday period

From all at the CRC for Mental Health, we'd like to wish you a safe, happy and healthy holidays. We look forward to working with you in 2017.

Please note our offices will be closed from 24 December - 3 January.
 
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