The Problem: Depression
leading cause of disability worldwide  according to the World Health Organization 

We are sending you this first Depression Grand Challenge Newsletter because you have expressed interest or provided a gift to the program. This issue focuses on the accomplishments achieved in the first year following the announcement of our ambitious effort. Hereafter, we will provide you with quarterly updates.  
Our Goals:
  • cut the burden of depression in half by 2050
  • eliminate depression by the end of the century
Our Vision:
Solving the problem of depression demands a multifaceted, strategic effort. The Depression Grand Challenge (DGC) brings together UCLA faculty from over 25 departments to tackle depression from all angles. A diverse and expansive patient population is at our fingertips through the UCLA Health System, which heightens the DGC's research capabilities. The 100,000 person longitudinal study (100K Study) is at the center of our initiative because it will unearth genetic, biological, cognitive, social and environmental factors associated with depression. Continue reading to learn about the four components that make up the DGC infrastructure.
The Four Components:

Innovative Treatment Network
  • Develop and deploy novel treatments for depression based on current DGC Human Studies research and new developments in the field, overall
100K Study
  • Monitor 100,000 individuals over 10-15 years to illuminate genetic and environmental causes of depression
Discovery Neuroscience
  • Understand neural mechanisms underlying depression, with the ultimate goal of developing new and better treatments
Awareness & Hope
  • Increase public understanding about depression in order to eliminate stigma and discrimination, both of which serve as barriers to people getting the help that they need
Our Team:
The executive committee catalyzes research and unites dozens of talented scientists from departments across campus. Nelson Freimer, MD is the Director of the DGC. A psychiatrist and geneticist, he has devoted his career to understanding the causation and course of mood disorders, including both major depression and bipolar disorder. Michelle Craske, PhD is a distinguished professor, departments of Psychology and Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, and Director of the UCLA Anxiety and Depression Research Center, who studies risk factors for depression and anxiety and new, more effective treatment models. She leads the Innovative Treatment Network component of the DGC. Jonathan Flint, MD is a psychiatrist who has led the largest and first successful study of the genetic basis of depression. He moved from Oxford University to UCLA to lead the 100K Study component of the DGC. Larry Zipursky, PhD distinguished professor in Biological Chemistry and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, leads the discovery neuroscience component of the DGC.
2016 in Review:  
  1. Commenced demonstration projects in preparation for the 100K study.

  2. Launched four Human Studies demonstration projects and began enrolling participants in these studies.

  3. Recruited six UCLA Foundation DGC Fellows and four Max Gray Fellows and began novel research projects, which will contribute to DGC 100K study research structure.

  4. Created Depression Grand Challenge Worldwide proposal for the MacArthur Foundation 100&Change competition, submitted by a team of international collaborators who developed a strategy to expand depression treatment on a global level.  While the proposal was not selected for funding, this work became the basis for the Innovative Treatment Network focused on improving and scaling treatment of depression within the local community.

  5. Developed Resilience Peer Network, a new treatment model for students that involves training peers to be first-line members of the treatment team. The DGC recruited resilience peers to lead support groups for fellow students and enrolled students in internet-based cognitive-behavioral therapy for depression, supplemented with group meetings.

  6. Adapted for DGC use, a smart phone remote monitoring system that can record an individual's behavior patterns that are associated with depression, as a means to guide treatment decisions.
  7. Secured funding totaling $33 million, including contributions from UCLA, the National Institutes of Health, the Wellcome Trust (a U.K.-based charity), and philanthropic gifts.

Thank you


Thank you for your interest and engagement in the Depression Grand Challenge. Moving forward, we will update you quarterly on progress in the four components of the Depression Grand Challenge.