Translational Molecular Psychiatry

Our research aim is to ultimately develop disease modifying novel treatments for psychotic disorders, in particular, schizophrenia using a broad translational approach. Starting from clinically derived insights and samples, we probe the cellular and molecular characteristics of post-mortem human and animal brain relevant to psychotic disorders. From these laboratory studies we investigate animal behaviour using transgenic models of psychosis, identifying relevant neuronal signalling pathways. These laboratory based findings can then be re-applied to investigate new biomarkers in clinical samples using genetic, protein, and electrophysiological measures.

We are also establishing a clinical trials research group evaluating new treatments for these disorders in the hope to build a unique translational research program in psychotic disorders that utilise clinical and biomarker data to understand the molecular bases of psychotic disorders, and in turn generate novel treatments and diagnostics for these patient groups.

Find out more;

Collaborators

International

  1. Professor Kazutaka Ikeda, Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Medical Science
  2. Assistant Professor, Chad Bousman, University of Calgary
  3. Professor Ian Everall, King’s College London
  4. Professor KeQiang Ye, Emory University
  5. Professor Herbert Y Meltzer, MD, Northwestern University
  6. Professor Sohee Park, Vanderbilt University
  7. Professor Robert Randolph Blake, Vanderbilt University

National

  1. Dr Rachel Hill, Monash University
  2. Associate Professor Olivia Carter, University of Melbourne
  3. Dr Ilvana Dzafic, University of Queensland
  4. Professor Brian Dean, Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health
  5. Professor Cynthia Shannon Weickert, University of New South Wales
  6. Professor Chris Pantelis, University of Melbourne
  7. Associate Professor Thomas Weickert, University of New South Wales
  8. Dr Marta Garrido, University of Queensland
  9. Professor Alex Fornito, Monash University
  10. Professor Sean Drummond, Monash University
  11. Professor Richard Kanaan, University of Melbourne
  12. Professor Shantha Rajaratnam, Monash University
  13. Professor David Walker, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology

Selected recent publications

  1. Development and validation of a mental health screening tool for asylum-seekers and refugees: the STAR-MH. Hocking DC, Mancuso SG, Sundram S. BMC Psychiatry. 2018 Mar 16;18(1):69. doi: 10.1186/s12888-018-1660-8.
  2. Elevated peripheral expression of neuregulin-1 (NRG1) mRNA isoforms in clozapine-treated schizophrenia patients. Mostaid MS,  Lee TT, Chana G, Sundram S, Shannon Weickert C, Pantelis C, Everall I, Bousman C. Transl Psychiatry. 2017 Dec 11;7(12):1280. doi: 10.1038/s41398-017-0041-2.
  3. The mental health of refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island. Sundram S, Ventevogel P. Lancet. 2017 Dec 9;390(10112):2534-2536. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(17)33051-9. Epub 2017 Nov 27.
  4. Peripheral Transcription of NRG-ErbB Pathway Genes Are Upregulated in Treatment-Resistant Schizophrenia. Mostaid MS, Lee TT, Chana G, Sundram S, Shannon Weickert C, Pantelis C, Everall I, Bousman C. Front Psychiatry. 2017 Nov 6;8:225. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2017.00225. eCollection 2017.
  5. Widespread white matter microstructural differences in schizophrenia across 4322 individuals: results from the ENIGMA  Schizophrenia DTI Working Group. Kelly S…. Sundram S…. Donohoe G. Mol Psychiatry. 2017 Oct 17. doi: 10.1038/mp.2017.170. [Epub ahead of print]
  6. Widespread Volumetric Reductions in Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective Patients Displaying Compromised Cognitive Abilities. Van Rheenen TE, Cropley V, Zalesky A, Bousman C, Wells R, Bruggemann J, Sundram S, Weinberg D, Lenroot RK, Pereira A, Shannon Weickert C, Weickert TW, Pantelis C. Schizophr Bull. 2017 Aug 21. doi: 10.1093/schbul/sbx109. [Epub ahead of print]
  7. Neuregulin-1 (NRG1) polymorphisms linked with psychosis transition are associated with enlarged lateral ventricles and white matter disruption in schizophrenia. Bousman CA, Cropley V, Klauser P, Hess JL, Pereira A, Idrizi R, Bruggemann J, Mostaid MS, Lenroot R, Weickert TW, Glatt SJ, Everall IP, Sundram S, Zalesky A, Weickert CS, Pantelis C. Psychol Med. 2018 Apr;48(5):801-809. doi: 10.1017/S0033291717002173. Epub 2017 Aug 22.
  8. Sensory integration deficits support a dimensional view of psychosis and are not limited to schizophrenia. Carter O, Bennett D, Nash T, Arnold S, Brown L, Cai RY, Allan Z, Dluzniak A, McAnally K, Burr D, Sundram S. Transl Psychiatry. 2017 May 9;7(5):e1118. doi: 10.1038/tp.2017.69.
  9. Meta-analysis reveals associations between genetic variation in the 5' and 3' regions of Neuregulin-1 and schizophrenia. Mostaid MS, Mancuso SG, Liu C, Sundram S, Pantelis C, Everall IP, Bousman CA. Transl Psychiatry. 2017 Jan 17;7(1):e1004. doi: 10.1038/tp.2016.279.
  10. Accelerated Gray and White Matter Deterioration With Age in Schizophrenia. Cropley VL, Klauser P, Lenroot RK, Bruggemann J, Sundram S, Bousman C, Pereira A, Di Biase MA, Weickert TW, Weickert CS, Pantelis C, Zalesky A. Am J Psychiatry. 2017 Mar 1;174(3):286-295. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2016.16050610. Epub 2016 Dec 6.
  11. Neuregulin-1 and schizophrenia in the genome-wide association study era. Mostaid MS, Lloyd D, Liberg B, Sundram S, Pereira A, Pantelis C, Karl T, Weickert CS, Everall IP, Bousman CA. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2016 Sep;68:387-409. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2016.06.001. Epub 2016 Jun 6.
  12. Striatal but not frontal cortical up-regulation of the epidermal growth factor receptor in rats exposed to immune activation in utero and cannabinoid treatment in adolescence. Idrizi R, Malcolm P, Weickert CS, Zavitsanou K, Sundram S. Psychiatry Res. 2016 Jun 30;240:260-264. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2016.04.026. Epub 2016 Apr 18.
  13. Selective impairment of global motion integration, but not global form detection, in schizophrenia and bipolar affective disorder. Bennett D, Dluzniak A, Cropper SJ, Partos T, Sundram S, Carter O. Schizophr Res Cogn. 2015 Dec 7;3:11-14. doi: 10.1016/j.scog.2015.11.003. eCollection 2016 Mar.

Clinical trials

  • Phase 1B clinical trial on the efficacy of R13 on cognitive ability (still in developmental stages). Collaboration with Prof. Ye and Dr. Hill
  • Phase 1B clinical trial to test the efficacy of bazedoxifene in postmenopausal women with schizophrenia (still in development). Collaboration with Prof. Kulkarni

Current projects

  1. Evidence for biomarker development in schizophrenia sub-groups
  2. Using single-nuclei RNA-Sequencing to uncover novel candidate genes and/or signalling pathways that are altered in people with schizophrenia.
  3. Using genetically manipulated drosophila to understand the function of novel genes associated with schizophrenia    
  4. Characterizing the behavioural phenotype of betacellulin knockout mice – a promising new candidate gene associated with schizophrenia
  5. Exploring the signalling convergence between the epidermal growth factor and immune systems in schizophrenia
  6. Regularity learning in Psychosis
  7. The mental health consequences of seeking asylum in Australia

Grant Success

Professor Sundram has attracted >$10m in research funding from NHMRC (including as CIA), Department of Health and other Government and philanthropic sources.

  • 2016: National Health and Medical Research Council Equipment Grant ($130,000): Portable neurophysiology assessment suite
  • 2016 – 2017: Lead investigator - Cabrini Foundation ($150,000): Developing screening tools for mental health disorders in child and adolescent asylum seekers
  • 2016 – 2017: Principal chief investigator - Australian Communities Foundation ($10,000): Final phase: screening tool for asylum seeker mental health
  • 2015 – 2017: Chief investigator - National Institute for Health Research - National Health  and Medical Research Council Grant ($407,716.62): Final phase: screening tool for asylum seeker mental health
  • 2014 – 2015: Lead investigator - AMP Foundation Tomorrow Fund ($100,000): Developing a new blood test for schizophrenia
  • 2014 – 2015: Lead investigator - Iorine Estelle Demmer and Hugh Eardley Demmer Charitable Trust ($40,000): Developing biomarkers for schizophrenia
  • 2013 – 2014: Lead investigator - CRC for Mental Health, Psychosis Stream ($167,000): Investigating the action of clozapine on the epidermal growth factor system: implications for antipsychotic drug action
  • 2010 – 2012 : CIA - National Health and Medical Research Council Project Grant (#628802, $351,438): Investigating the action of clozapine on the epidermal growth factor system: implications for antipsychotic drug action
    Investigator on grants examining the mechanisms of action of psychotropic drugs on intracellular signal transduction pathways in cell systems.
  • 2005 – 2014: Sole investigator - One-in-Five Assoc. Inc. ($1,400,000)
  • 2004 – 2008: Sole investigator - Woods Research Program ($350,000)
  • 2004 – 2005: Sole investigator - Flack Trust ($30,000)
  • 2010: Sole investigator - Flack Trust ($16,000): Developing a screening tool for mental health disorders in asylum seekers
  • 2012 – 2015: Sole investigator - Cabrini Health ($150,000): Is acculturation the nexus that mediates the relationship between depression and physical illness in culturally and linguistic diverse populations?
  • 2012 – 2017: National Health and Medical Research Council. Australia Cooperative Research Center in Mental Health, Psychosis ($303,000): Title: Investigating biomarkers of treatment resistant psychosis; Investigators: Pantelis C, Everall IP, Dean B, Bousman CA (CoI),  Sundram S.
  • 2014 – 2017: CRC For Mental Health LTD - PhD Student Support Grant ($30,000): Title: Biomarkers of clozapine response in schizophrenia; Investigators: Bousman CA (Lead), Mostaid S (student), Everall IP, Sundram S.
  • 2009: Lead investigator - Beyondblue ($97,000): Muscarinic M1 receptor, cognition and schizophrenia
  • 2005 – 2007: CID - National Health and Medical Research Council ($593,550): Predicting functional outcomes following aripiprazole treatment in schizophrenia
  • 2004: Sole investigator - Bristol Myer Squibb ($50,000): Evaluation of a nurse practitioner in psychiatric crisis assessment team
  • 2004 – 2006: CIB - Department of Human Services ($150,000): Plasma apolipoproteins D and E as potential markers for treatment response in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder
  • 2008: CIC - Woods Family Trust ($120,000)
  • 2003: Award - Neuroscience Research Grants (Pfizer, $50,000): Development of an Australian network of health professionals for consultation regarding health service development (in conjunction with Prof Paul Komesaroff)
  • 2008: AusAid ($250,000)