The Taylor Family Institute for Innovative Psychiatric Research seeks to eradicate mental illness by exploring and developing new treatments and therapies.

Launched in 2012 with visionary support of Andrew and Barbara Taylor and the Crawford Taylor Foundation, the Taylor Family Institute for Innovative Psychiatric Research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis is focused on changing the landscape of mental health.

Psychiatric illnesses today

Psychiatric illnesses are a heterogenous collection of disorders characterized by dysfunction of brain networks, ultimately leading to symptoms involving emotion, motivation and cognition. They permeate our world and affect those around us in myriad seen — and unseen — ways.

According to estimates from the World Health Organization, psychiatric disorders affect more than 80 million Americans and roughly 25 percent of people throughout the world. Up to 30 percent of adults in the United States suffer from a psychiatric illness at some point in their lives, and those illnesses account for more than 40 percent of all disabilities.

Psychiatric disorders represent a common thread underlying many other disabilities and causes of death, including suicide. They also are a driving factor behind hospital readmission rates.

There is no one set path to a good outcome for those affected with psychiatric illness. Yet pharmacological treatments for psychiatric disorders have remained relatively unchanged over the last 25 years.

Treatments haven’t come quickly enough

Modern neuroscience and genetics are providing new insights into the underlying mechanisms that contribute to psychiatric illnesses. But despite that progress, relatively few new and more effective treatments have come to market.

The last class of psychiatric drugs developed successfully were selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), for treating depression, and new-generation antipsychotic medications for illnesses such as schizophrenia. Although those drugs tend to be more effective than older medications, they target the same systems in the brain as did psychiatric drugs that were available in the 1950s and 1960s.

Many current medications used to treat psychiatric disorders, although offering help to those affected, have major limitations in terms of effectiveness and potential side effects.

The development of novel pharmacological treatments offers some of the greatest hope for diminishing the impact of psychiatric illnesses.

Accelerating translational medicine

In an environment of increasingly limited funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Taylor Family Institute for Innovative Psychiatric Research seeks to advance the development of treatment options for those affected with psychiatric disorders by providing support for both laboratory and clinical collaborations.

Members of the Institute drive laboratory and clinical research at Washington University focused on new treatment development in psychiatry and involve collaborations among several departments, including psychiatry, anesthesiology, developmental biology, radiology, neurology and neuroscience.

The core strengths of Institute scientists encompass biochemical, biophysical, physiological and behavioral research, and drug discovery.

Understanding the genetics, neurocircuitry and biology of psychiatric and neurological disorders is important for developing much needed treatments for the many individuals, families and friends living with the effects of these devastating illnesses.

About the Taylor Family

Barbara and Andrew Taylor, who committed $20 million to fund the Taylor Family Institute for Innovative Psychiatric Research in 2012.

Andrew and Barbara Taylor and the Crawford Taylor Foundation, the charity of the entire Jack C. Taylor family, committed $20 million to the Department of Psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis to advance the science underlying the diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric illnesses. The gift was announced as university leaders launched Leading Together: The Campaign for Washington University, a historic effort to enhance Washington University’s leadership here and abroad.

“Barbara, our family, and I believe it is important to take a public position in supporting the science that holds great hope for many individuals and their families,” says Andy Taylor, chair of the Leading Together campaign and chief executive officer of Enterprise Holdings, the St. Louis-based company that operates the Enterprise Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car brands.

“Our investment in this campaign reflects our confidence in the leadership of Dr. Charles Zorumski, head of the Department of Psychiatry, as well as our appreciation of adjunct professor Dr. Luis Giuffra, who deepened our understanding of the great need for this effort.”

Read more about the Taylor Family and their gift on the Leading Together campaign website »