Open Source Genetic Data for Mental Health

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 9.53.02 AMThe Harvard Personal Genome Project (PGP) has worked since 2005 to establish an open-source ecosystem of volunteered data. The Mind First Foundation works closely with the PGP and is committed to leveraging the power of novel research methods (including the PGP’s data ecosystem) to better understand the brain and mind. This year our conference agenda will include the usual PGP agenda of genomes and traits, but for the first time there will be added focus on mind and behavior.

Donating your genome and health data to science is a great way to enable advances in understanding human genetics, biology, and health. We seek volunteers willing to donate diverse personal information to become a public resource. Open data is a critical component of the scientific method, but genomes are both identifiable and predictive. As a result, many studies choose to withhold data from participants and restrict access to researchers. The PGP’s public data is a common ground to collaborate and improve our understanding of genomes.

We are a member of the Global Network of Personal Genome Projects. Since the Personal Genome Project was launched at Harvard Medical School in 2005, the network has grown to include researchers at many leading institutions around the globe.


New Approach

mental health

Dmitry Kirsanov/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

A New Approach to Mental Health

The founders of the Mind First Foundation believe that mental traits are highly complex and depend on both biology and environment. They have pioneered a revolutionary research model with greater promise to discover the underlying causes of mental illnesses and serious dysfunction, and ultimately to develop more successful treatments.

Major mental disorders traditionally thought to be distinct share certain genetic glitches and this may point to better ways to diagnose and treat these conditions. Scientists have long recognized that many psychiatric disorders tend to run in families, suggesting potential genetic roots. Such disorders include autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, major depression and schizophrenia.

Symptoms can overlap between these conditions and so distinguishing among these psychiatric syndromes can be difficult. Shared symptoms may also suggest they may also share similarities at the biological level.

In fact, recent studies have turned up limited evidence of shared genetic risk factors, such as for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, autism and schizophrenia, and depression and bipolar disorder.

Mind First

Mind First FoundationIntroducing the Mind First Foundation

Mind First Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit. The Mind First Foundation was founded by Harvard Medical School-affiliated scientists, innovators and leaders in genetics, personal genomics, and mental health epidemiology. Mind First works closely with the Personal Genome Project at HMS, focusing on mental health in the PGP. The Mind First founders group includes HMS Professor of Genetics and founder of the Personal Genome Project Dr. George Church, Personal Genome Project director Dr. Preston Estep, project coordinator Alex Hoekstra and HMS Professor and World Health Organization World Mental Health Survey Co-Director Dr. Ron Kessler.