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Stimulus money funds new project at Penn

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania are embarking on a new research project with 10 million dollars in stimulus money. It integrates behavioral health research with genetic information.


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The project uses an existing database of genetic information compiled at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). Penn scientists will contact 10,000 children who gave blood for genetic research, and will test them for cognitive functioning and behavior.

Their goal is to find genetic markers for different mental disorders, and ways to detect problems early on. Lead researcher Raquel Gur is director of the neuropsychiatry program at the University of Pennsylvania:

Gur: So we’ll be able to see if for example participants with a specific pattern of cognitive difficulty also have a genetic signature to it, and can this be, in the future, a screen for children.

Gur says cross-referencing cognition and behavior with genetic information will lead to new discoveries:

Gur: We’re too complex, so when we pick up one feature it’s too limited, so we need an interdisciplinary team to do big science.

The project is funded for 2 years, and will create 56 full time positions at CHOP and U Penn.

Dr. Stephen Tang of Philadelphia’s Science Center says it’s a good long-term investment in economic development. He says the research is groundbreaking, and will attract companies and new ventures to the region.

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