The Foundation of Hope funds groundbreaking mental illness research projects that explore the biological, neurological and genetic bases of mental illness and forge paths to improved diagnosis and treatment.

Through its seed grant funding model, the Foundation awards relatively small grants—typically between $35,000 and $40,000—to qualifying researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of Psychiatry. Each project functions much the same as a startup business: a small, but promising idea that needs an initial investment to grow.

Having proved their mettle, many Foundation-backed projects receive thousands or millions of dollars in subsequent investment from private organizations and the National Institute of Health.



June 2020

Continuing its efforts to curb the debilitating effects of mental illness, the Foundation of Hope for Research and Treatment of Mental Illness will award almost $475,000 for ten research grants to thirteen investigators from the Department of Psychiatry at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill:

Read the full press release here.

April 2020

We are incredibly excited to announce that UNC’s Dr. Zoe McElligott and her gifted team of scientists just received a $2 million dollar grant from the National Institute of Drug Abuse to continue her study of opioid withdrawal. This new grant seeks to uncover how opioid withdrawal affects the areas of the brain involved in alertness, arousal, and readiness for action.

The Foundation of Hope invested $50,000 in critical seed funding just 10 months ago into Dr. McElligott’s project, “Evaluating Oxytocin in Opioid Withdrawal: A Translational Study.” Initial results from that study led to this valuable scientific accomplishment and the $2 million in leveraged funds.

Read more about Dr. McElligott’s new study here.

June 19, 2019

In its continuing efforts to curb the debilitating effects of mental illness, the Foundation of Hope for Research and Treatment of Mental Illness will award over $480,000 in research grants to seven investigators from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill:

  • Dr. Jessica Baker • Award: $46,942 • “A Mechanistic Examination of Continuous-Cycle Oral Contraceptive Administration in Bulimia Nervosa”
  • Dr. Paul Geiger • Award: $38,400 • “Depression in the Menopause Transition: Cortisol Circadian Rhythms and Sleep Impairment as Mechanisms of Risk”
  • Dr. Zoe McElligott • Award: $50,000 • “Evaluating Oxytocin in Opioid Withdrawal: A Translational Study”
  • Dr. Rebekah Nash • $39,886 • “Genetic Risk Factors of Post-traumatic Stress Disorders in Solid Organ Transplant Recipients”
  • Dr. Jose Rodriguez-Romaguera • $200,000 • “Dissecting the Neural Circuits of Hyperarousal States in Psychiatry”
  • Dr. Guorong Wu • $39,069 • “Quantifying the brain developmental trajectory of autism-associated brain overgrowth using 3D cellular resolution imaging”
  • Dr. Anthony Zannas • $75,000 • “Epigenetic Mechanism of Post-traumatic Stress After Sexual Assault”

Read the full press release (opens in new tab as PDF).

April 2019

We are immensely proud to announce that a team of UNC researchers has received FDA approval for the first drug specifically developed to treat postpartum depression (PPD). In a five-year study sponsored by Sage Therapeutics, project leader Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody conducted the first open-label study of the drug brexanolone—which will be marketed under the name Zulresso—and participated in phase 2 and phase 3 clinical trials.

While the Foundation of Hope did not directly fund the development of brexanolone, we did play an important role in the early stages that led to this breakthrough. Support from the Foundation helped to establish the UNC Center for Women’s Mood Disorders and funded early research of Dr. Meltzer-Brody’s into the pathology of PPD.

Click here to read more about this project.