The Wilson Foundation invests more than $1 million in mental health research at Deakin University’s Food & Mood Centre

  Professor Felice Jacka  Deakin Food & Mood Centre Director

The Wilson Foundation will invest $1 million to support Deakin University’s Food & Mood Centre to further its cutting-edge research linking the human gut microbiome to mental and brain health.

The Deakin Food & Mood Centre Director Professor Felice Jacka said the donation, the Centre’s largest to date, would make an innovative and tangible impact to mental health research in Australia.

“The Wilson Foundation partners with experts and communities to deliver impactful and lasting improvements to mental health. The Deakin Food & Mood Centre is delighted to have been selected by the Wilson Foundation as a research partner,” Professor Jacka said.

“The Wilson Foundation’s donation will significantly expand our research that seeks to understand how the gut and its resident microbiota are linked to mental and brain health. We believe these insights will result in new prevention and treatment strategies for disorders that impose the greatest burden of illness across the globe.”

 Felice Jacka & Karen Wilson

Felice Jacka & Karen Wilson

Wilson Foundation Chair Karen Wilson said the five-year partnership would yield new insights into this important field of mental health.

“We are committed to investing in research into the microbiome and its impact on mental and brain health across the life course. We are delighted to partner with Deakin University’s Food & Mood Centre to support this crucial work,” Mrs Wilson said.

Professor Jacka said there was an extensive body of research that showed that the quality of diet was intrinsically linked to mental and brain health. Her ground-breaking SMILES study, published in 2017, was the first randomised clinical trial to show improvements to diet could help treat serious depression.

“We are now understanding that the gut is likely a key pathway to influencing mental and brain health. We also know that gut health can be changed rapidly using dietary strategies, which is why this funding is so crucial,” Professor Jacka said.

“There is also the possibility of treatment by targeted probiotics, antibiotics, and even faecal microbial transplants. This funding from the Wilson Foundation will allow us to fast-track research into this urgent and important topic.”

The $1 million investment follows the Wilson Foundation’s existing partnership with the Food & Mood Centre initiated in 2017, which provided funding for a post-doctorate research fellow and continued research into the microbiome and mental health.