Mental health research funder 1907 Research Inc has selected recipients of its first annual 1907 Trailblazer Awards, which are two-year grants valued at over $120,000 each.

One of the three awardees is sleep researcher Laura Lewis, PhD, from Boston University, for her proposal “Linking sleep, cerebrospinal fluid flow, and inflammation, in depression.”

Lewis’ award will enable her lab to pursue a novel idea for how neuroinflammation is regulated by sleep. Cerebrospinal fluid is a liquid that envelops the brain and is essential for maintaining brain health, as it can wash away inflammatory substances. Lewis has developed a new imaging technique to measure cerebrospinal fluid flow in humans and will study it in patients with depression through brain MRIs in their sleep.

“The support of 1907 Research is transformative for being able to launch this unconventional project. As an early-career neuroscientist, the award will make a critical difference in our efforts to develop this new research area, which I hope will benefit our understanding and treatment of mental health disorders,” says Lewis in a release.

The other two winners are Benjamin Bartelle, PhD, from Arizona State University, for his proposal “Accessing neuroimmunity with a domesticated Zika virus” and Katherine Scangos, MD, PhD, from the University of California, San Francisco, for her proposal “Using direct cortical and subcortical neural recordings to uncover principles of network dynamics underlying depression symptom severity in major depression.”

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“The three early-career researchers we have chosen to support are truly exceptional in their ambition and innovation. Tackling psychiatric disease and mental illness through neuroscience needs new thinking, and this is exactly what our incoming fellows are bringing,” says Anil Seth, MSc, DPhil, professor of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience at the University of Sussex and member of the 1907 Research Advisory Board that selected the 1907 Trailblazer Award Fellows, in a release.

“We were looking for people with thoughtful but different perspectives on the neurobiology of mental illness, that have the potential to transform our understanding of these disorders,” says. Amy Arnsten, PhD, professor of Neuroscience at Yale Medical School and member of the 1907 Research Advisory Board, in a release.

The 1907 Trailblazer Award Fellows were chosen from a pool of over 150 applicants from 69 research institutions—universities and hospitals—in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada. The recipients were unanimously selected by a committee of 12 scientific advisors from disciplines spanning psychiatry, neuroscience, genetics, and engineering. 1907 Research designed a research review process that focused on the scientific merit of “novel ideas” while reducing bias via software-assisted, blinded analytics.

“1907 Research is committed to accelerating breakthroughs in mental health research by supporting ideas based on first principles thinking, rather than dogma,” says Vanessa Tolosa, PhD, a neurotechnologist and member of the 1907 Research team that reviewed proposals, in a release. “The unique process used for the 1907 Trailblazer Awards is designed to cut through discriminating factors that have no basis for scientific success such as gender, race, or pedigree. This allows for truly novel and sound ideas from the thinkers of tomorrow to be given a chance at discovery today.”