MATRIX-N research cluster receives renewed funding to continue promoting research excellence, collaboration and innovation in neuropsychiatry

The Multidisciplinary Alliance for Translational Research and Innovation in Neuropsychiatry (MATRIX-N) Research Cluster is thrilled to announce that it has secured an additional year of funding from UBC’s Grants for Catalyzing Research Clusters competition! This grant will support the cluster’s mission to bridge gaps between neuropsychiatry research, clinical practice, and patient needs to facilitate innovative solutions to local and global mental health challenges.

About one in three Canadians experience a mental health or substance use disorder in their lifetime. With the high prevalence of these conditions, there remains an urgent need for improved understanding of their causes and especially innovations in treatment options. The MATRIX-N cluster brings together a diverse group of leading researchers and clinicians from foundational neuroscience, pharmacology, and drug discovery, to clinical research and clinical practice, each committed to seeking advances in mental health and addiction research and treatment. By facilitating foundational/clinical and academic/industry partnerships, interdisciplinary collaboration, and innovation, the goal of the cluster is to support translational research at UBC to address unmet gaps in research and treatment from bench to bedside to community.

“The renewal of the MATRIX-N cluster provides a strong vote of confidence for all colleagues affiliated with this exciting venture,” says MATRIX-N faculty lead, Dr. Anthony Phillips. “Of even greater importance is the unique opportunity it affords for the creation of several new research initiatives directed to the translation of new insights into basic mechanisms of brain function or psychosocial determinants of brain health into real advances in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness and substance use disorders.”

What has the MATRIX-N cluster accomplished so far?

To mark the one-year anniversary of the MATRIX-N Cluster’s launch, we are pleased to share these highlights from the past year:

  • Expanded the cluster to include 70+ faculty, clinician, and trainee members to-date, nearly doubling our initial membership over our first year. Meet our MATRIX-N members.
  • Organized the 1st annual ‘Translation in Action: from Neuropsychiatry Research to Health Solutions’ conference in December 2022. This all-day virtual event welcomed over 90 speakers and moderators and 700+ attendees from 30 countries around the world. This format has the added benefit of establishing a permanent public resource (recordings available online).
  • Welcomed two new faculty co-leads to the cluster steering committee, with Drs. Rebecca Todd and Catharine Winstanley (UBC Department of Psychology) joining Drs. Anthony Phillips, Tamara Vanderwal, and Michael Krausz (UBC Department of Psychiatry).
  • Developed and solidified partnerships with the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health, UBC Academy of Translational Medicine, BC Support Unit (Support for People and Patient-Oriented Research & Trials), Clinical Trials BC, and others.
  • The first cohort of six MATRIX-N Junior Scholars completed their appointments with the cluster, during which they participated in and led key MATRIX-N activities (e.g., science communication, conference organization, community outreach, etc.), while benefiting from various mentorship, training, and networking opportunities (e.g., ‘Careers in Translational Research’ panel).
  • Initiated weekly science communication/knowledge exchange activities via Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok (e.g., #TranslationalTuesdays, #WorkshopWednesdays, and #FeatureFridays posts that highlight recent publications, conference sessions, and faculty/trainee members within the cluster, respectively) to increase community engagement, research accessibility, and overall research impact.
  • Created two advisory groups, an International Advisory Committee of world-renowned translational researchers to serve as cluster advisors and research collaborators, and a Community Advisory Group (currently in development) to incorporate perspectives of people with lived/living experience related to mental health and substance use disorders and help make cluster research and activities more patient-centered.
  • Conducted and published numerous translational research studies in preclinical cellular and animal models, healthy human subjects, and patient populations, evaluating innovative therapeutics such as ketamine, psychedelics, buprenorphine micro-induction, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), cannabinoids, and TGIR/Heantos for the treatment of substance use disorders, pain, mood disorders, and other mental health-related indications.

What’s next for the MATRIX-N cluster?

We have many exciting projects and plans for this year, including:

  • Promoting preclinical-clinical discourse and bridging translational gaps via forums and events that facilitate discussion, problem-solving, collaboration, education/professional development, networking, and community outreach.
  • Increasing efficiencies in the drug development pipeline, particularly by building clinical research capacity, developing resources, and supporting training for clinical trials of novel therapeutics for psychiatric disorders.
  • Securing self-sustaining funding and providing direct grant support to the most promising projects and initiatives within the cluster.
  • Continuing and growing our partnerships with research faculty and trainees, international collaborators, industry, community organizations, and patient partners.
  • Working with clinicians and health care providers to help provide an integrated, expedited, evidence-based response to the current public emergencies of mental ill-health, SUDs and drug overdoses.

“Time is of the essence, so we encourage those colleagues with new insights to seek complementary expertise within the cluster,” says Dr. Phillips. “Mechanisms to facilitate both the communication of new ideas and small group discussions will be shared soon. Success will be measured by the creation of a small number of ongoing collaborations arising from individual sparks of ingenuity that appeal to other prepared minds.”

Interested in learning more or getting involved?