The international Psychiatry Consortium has funded its first project – a partnership which will investigate a new drug target for the treatment of schizophrenia.

The project will see the University of Oxford partner with the Earlham Institute and pharma companies Biogen and Boehringer Ingelheim.

The research team will utilise a newly-designed technical approach to evaluate which proteins are selectively produced by the kalirin gene, as well as how this differs from other human tissues.

Following this, the research team hope to be able to identify which proteins are the most promising drug targets for the potential treatment of schizophrenia, how the affects cell function and develop drugs to alter their function.

“We desperately need new treatments for schizophrenia because current drugs can cause side effects, do not work for everyone and do not improve all the symptoms,” said Liz Tunbridge, associate professor at the University of Oxford and lead investigator of the study.

“However, it has been difficult to improve this situation because of our limited understanding of the changes in the brain that underlie schizophrenia.

“This exciting collaboration will enable us to start the long journey from genetic research to the development of new drugs. Ultimately, we hope that our research will one day lead to new medicines that improve the lives of people with schizophrenia,” she added.

The Psychiatry Consortium is a £4m collaboration between seven global pharma companies as well as two research charities – managed by the Medicines Discovery Catapult.

The aim of the Consortium is to support ‘high value’ drug discovery projects that address the unmet therapeutic needs of people living with mental health conditions.