Our History

In 2009, Cure Alliance co-founder Hakon Heimer and Nobel Laureate James Watson, with the support of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, convened the leading thinkers in mental illness research for a summit at the Banbury retreat center. Their charge was to figure out why the revolutionary new technologies in genetics and other biological sciences were not being applied to the mental illnesses the way they are to other illnesses. One answer was clear: whereas those suffering from cancer, AIDS, and other disorders have full-time, active advocates in Washington, DC, influencing research funding, our champions are too busy advocating for basic human rights, such as housing, treatment, or insurance coverage.

Robin Cunningham, Patrick J. Kennedy, and Thomas Insel

Robin Cunningham, Patrick J. Kennedy, and Thomas Insel

The Banbury group drafted a call to arms for large-scale projects to understand the genetics and brain science of mental illness. Their article, published in the journal Science, lays out a strategy for finding effective, safe new treatments for autism, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and anxiety disorders like OCD and PTSD. (Read the full article by, among others, Watson and his fellow Nobel Laureates Sydney Brenner and Eric Kandel.)

In 2012, Robin Cunningham and Hakon Heimer founded Cure Alliance for Mental Illness to create the necessary advocacy force to support that scientific agenda, as well as other research to improve the lives of people with mental illness. Key to its success will be a grass-roots social network based on new technologies and online communities.