2022 Research Fund Awardee

SIRS Awards the 2022 Research Fund Award

The Schizophrenia International Research Society (SIRS) has awarded the 2022 Research Fund Award to Dr. Kwun Nam Chan from the University of Hong Kong in China. The title of the proposal is “Antipsychotic drug use in pregnancy and risk of congenital malformations: a population-based cohort study.” SIRS is confident that the project has great potential for societal impact.

SIRS is committed to directly supporting early career researchers who have important and novel ideas that may have immediate effects on improving the lives of people with schizophrenia. SIRS established a Research Fund Award for this purpose. The award is intended to provide research funds for junior investigators who have an important idea or hypothesis to test but are lacking in research funds to do so.

A Message from Kwun Nam Chan

The SIRS Research Fund Award supports my research that utilizes the territory-wide medical record database in Hong Kong to examine association of prenatal exposure to any antipsychotics and specific individual antipsychotics with risk of congenital malformations in the offspring. The study results will provide important evidence that facilitates risk-benefit evaluation of antipsychotic use during pregnancy. This study is also the first one focusing on the Chinese population in this respect, thereby shedding light on the association in the Asian population.

A Message from Kim Do, Chair of the Awards Committee

Antipsychotic medications are the mainstay treatment for both schizophrenia-spectrum and bipolar disorders. They have been increasingly used during pregnancy in the past decade. As antipsychotics can cross the placenta, and potentially impact neonatal development, a safety profile of commonly prescribed antipsychotics focusing on the risk of congenital malformations is urgently needed. Moreover, existing data regarding this risk are all based on research conducted in western countries, studies in other ethnic populations are missing. Leveraging unique data retrieved from a territory-wide medical record database for public healthcare coverage of all Hong Kong residents, Dr. Joe Kwun Nam Chan will evaluate for the first time the consequences of antipsychotic medications during pregnancy in an Asian population, including the possible deficiencies in different body systems. This study could enable clinicians to weigh the benefits and risks of the prenatal use of antipsychotics, facilitating further streamlining of medical care and services delivered to patients with severe mental disorders, including schizophrenia. It would allow to clarify underlying mechanisms of teratogenicity of antipsychotics, needed for the development of safer medications. We wish Dr. Chan every success with his project!

Support the Research Fund Award

The SIRS Research Fund Award has proven invaluable to supporting the research development of early career researchers. Through past donations, SIRS has provided three research fund awards to junior investigators. The 2019 awardee, Yoji Hirano of Kyushu University in Japan, used an MRI biofeedback method to alleviate auditory hallucinations in patients. The 2020 SIRS Research Fund Award went to Leandro Valiengo from Sao Paolo, Brazil. The funds enabled the use of a unique non-invasive procedure called biophotomodulation in a treatment trial for alleviating the negative symptoms of schizophrenia. The 2021 funds went to Dr. Vuyokazi Ntlantsana from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa and were used towards a Brief Relaxation, Education and Trauma Healing (BREATHE) in patients with first episode psychosis and post-traumatic stress disorder. Now in 2022 the funds go to Dr. Kwun Nam Chan from the University of Hong Kong in China.

It is estimated that 1 in every 100 people in the world live with schizophrenia. Even more live with psychosis. Now more than ever there is a need for increased research funding for schizophrenia research around the world. Consider supporting early career researchers and junior investigators with project ideas that would improve the lives of people with schizophrenia by donating to the SIRS research award.

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