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Transforming the understanding
and treatment of mental illnesses.

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Neuropharmacology Program

This program supports molecular, cellular, and circuit level research aimed at identifying and verifying novel targets for therapeutic intervention in the treatment of mental illnesses. Supported research includes studies of the structure, function, and regulation of CNS receptors, transporters, ion channels, neuropeptides, and neuromodulators; molecular mechanisms of ligand-receptor interactions; and mechanisms of action of potential novel therapeutics at the molecular, cellular, and neural circuit levels. The program also supports research relevant to the NIH Common Fund Illuminating the Druggable Genome  program that aims to elucidate the biology of novel or poorly characterized G protein coupled receptors, ion channels, and protein kinases expressed in the brain.

Areas of interest:

  • Identification and validation of novel molecular targets in model systems.
  • Scalable assays for medium- and high-throughput molecular screening in neurobiological systems in vitro.
  • Functional roles and signaling mechanisms of receptors, channels, and transporters where gene variants have been associated with disease risk at genome-wide significance, but where the basic biology of those genes is poorly understood, with the goal of identifying novel therapeutic targets.
  • Discovery and development of treatment approaches that target neural circuits underlying cognitive, affective or social function.
  • Preclinical biomarkers predictive of physiological drug action in humans using molecular, cellular, and/or circuit level approaches.
  • Molecular modeling and structural analyses of novel therapeutic targets.

Areas of Lower Priority:

  • Projects whose primary goal is to elucidate the mechanisms of action of approved and effective psychotherapeutic drugs.
  • Research based on 'candidate' risk genes that are not identified by well-powered, statistically significant genome-wide association (see NOT-MH-18-035 ).
  • Establishment or use of a 'model of' a disease (e.g., based on purported face validity and/or interpretation of behaviors as symptoms; see NOT-MH-19-053 ).

Applicants are strongly encouraged to align projects according to the NIMH Strategic Plan (see Funding Strategy), along with NIMH guidance on the use of model organisms for mental health-relevant research (NOT-MH-19-053 ), biological investigations of genes associated with disease risk (NOT-MH-18-035 ), and enhancing the reliability of NIMH-supported research through rigorous study design and reporting (NOT-MH-14-004 ).

It is recommended that applicants review the NIH/NIMH Therapeutics Discovery Research webpage for relevant announcements and guidance.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to discuss their proposals with the Institute contact listed below prior to the submission of their applications to ascertain that their proposed work is aligned with NIMH funding priorities.


Laurie Nadler, Ph.D.
Program Chief
6001 Executive Boulevard