What We Fund 2020-01-22T13:53:43-05:00

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 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, under the leadership of Dr. David Rubinow. This program has since gained world renown, and remains the only one in the U.S. with both an inpatient peripartum unit and an NIH T32 training fellowship. Dr. Meltzer-Brody and her team’s accomplishment is just one of many achieved by Center investigators.

Furthermore, this research is directly tied to Dr. Meltzer-Brody’s long-term interest in understanding the pathology and biomarker signature of PPD—funded by the Foundation of Hope in 2008 and 2011—with her goal of developing novel therapies and improving outcomes of patients. The Foundation also provided critical seed funding in 2015 for the PPD ACT app, a smartphone application developed by Dr. Meltzer-Brody and Dr. Patrick Sullivan. Our initial investment of $99,000 led to over $1.2 million in leveraged funding and the launch of the PPD app in four countries to date.

We could not be more excited for Dr. Meltzer-Brody, her team, and all of the women and families who will benefit from this extraordinary work.

Click here to read more about this project.