Stephen A Lieber, Chairman of the Board, Brain & Behavior Research Foundation


Since 1987, the BBRFoundation has been committed to alleviating the suffering caused by mental illness. Stephen A Lieber highlights a number of important breakthroughs supported by their NARSAD Research Grants, and asserts its commitment to backing novel, hard to fund projects that push forward innovative research and discovery


International Innovation featured the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation (BBRFoundation) last April – welcome back! To recap, could you give an overview of the Foundation and its core goals?

BBRFoundation (formerly the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression – NARSAD) funds cutting-edge research projects to understand, treat, and ultimately prevent and cure mental illness. The Foundation, supported through private contributions, has awarded over US $300 million through its NARSAD Research Grants to more than 3,700 scientists around the world, since 1987. Comprised of 147 leading experts, the Foundation’s Scientific Council awards grants to the most promising research proposals with the aim of funding projects that will achieve major gains in short timeframes. The Foundation’s operational expenses are underwritten by two family foundations, meaning 100 per cent of donor contributions for research are directly invested into the selected research proposals.

What have been the major focal points for the Foundation over the past year?

Our priority has been to continue to provide research grants to outstanding scientists at all levels notwithstanding a climate of receding financial support from other entities. The largest proportion of our grants goes to young, early-career scientists with innovative research ideas. Our support usually serves as a critical catalyst for their research careers, and once they have established proof of concept they are prepared to secure further, sustained support, which can be as much as 50 times the original grant amount. We also support both independent investigators with their own labs and distinguished investigators with novel, ‘out of the box’ ideas that can be difficult to fund through traditional sources. The Foundation’s main focus is supporting as many promising research ideas as possible to progress the field and ultimately improve the lives of the millions of people living with various mental illnesses.

The Foundation contributes actively to public education in mental health by regularly disseminating research results and progress, through high quality publications and a vibrant and interactive website. We also develop and host events open to the public where leading scientists present their latest findings and engage in dialogue with the audience. We do this in both virtual ‘Meet the Scientist’ webinars and in conferences in different cities.

To stimulate scientific achievement and public recognition we award the largest group of prizes for outstanding achievements in mental health research. The prize winners are selected annually through a peer-review process of our Scientific Council and receive their prizes in October at our National Awards Dinner in New York City. That same day, the prize winners present their latest research discoveries at a symposium in New York that is open to the public. Two of our prize winners have gone on to win Nobel Prizes.

This is an excerpt from a longer discussion published in International Innovation. To access the interview in full, go to: