Head of US government mental health institute joins Google

By Kelly Jirsa

Thomas Insel
Thomas Insel

Thomas Insel is known for his groundbreaking reform of psychiatric diagnoses, practical clinical trials, autism research, and research into the role of genetics in mental illnesses. After 13 years as Director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in the United States, he is taking up a post with Google’s Life Sciences team.

Insel told New Scientist:

“I have not seen any improvement for either morbidity or mortality for serious mental illness – so I’m ready to try a different approach”

Insel is dedicated to mental health reform, in 2014 he courageously announced that the NIMH would no longer fund psychiatric trials that only addressed symptoms, but would focus on identifying underlying diseases. He told Nature, “Patients really need something better. They need something that really allows earlier diagnosis and a better outcome.”

Insel says the tools available to the private sector may help with early detection of psychosis and finding ways to make treatment of illnesses like depression more readily available. He explains that high-powered tech companies like Google, IBM and Apple have the ‘analytical firepower’ to tackle large-scale projects, like the ones NIMH lacked the financial support to sustain.

Insel will step down from his top position as NIMH Director this month and into Google’s Life Sciences group at Alphabet, their new parent company.

We look forward to seeing how Insel uses the resources of Google to continue to transform the treatment and diagnosis of mental illnesses.

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