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19 June 2024

£5million for new research into anti-inflammatories as a treatment option for depression

The Wellcome Trust have awarded the funds for a new 5-year ground-breaking research project ‘ASPIRE’, aiming to conclusively test if anti-inflammatories can be the right treatment for the right people with depression.

A man talking to his psychiatrist

Led by Professor Carmine Pariante, the ASPIRE project (‘Advanced stratification of people with depression based on inflammation’) brings together a large international team of highly regarded experts, including people with lived experience who will join forces to advance the understanding of depression.

The project includes investigators from GAMIAN Europe (Brussels), Emory University, the University of Cape Town, Charité (Berlin), Amsterdam University Medical Centre, INSERM (France), the University of Milan, IRCCS Ospedale San Raffaele (Milan), University of Muenster, University of Antwerp and collaborators across the globe, including the University of Melbourne and Deakin University in Australia. Among the work package leads are several King’s staff including Professor Valeria Mondelli, Dr Giulia Lombardo and Courtney Worrell.

At present, there is a risk that the mental health field is foregoing the opportunity to use anti-inflammatory medications as a treatment for depression due to a lack of studies which target the right people by selecting them based on levels of inflammation. ASPIRE aims to explore a solution by assembling data from several existing trials as well as recruiting new participants.

Bringing together a substantial body of research, the team will explore existing studies on this topic and re-analyse biological data from over 1200 people with depression, to conclude who might benefit the most from treatment with anti-inflammatory medications, transforming this learning into a decision tool. The decision tool will help healthcare professionals move towards innovative personalised treatment and early interventions by supporting informed decisions on treatment options for people with depression based on their levels of inflammation.

We are on the edge of a revolution in psychiatry, with the possibility of tailoring the best treatment for people with depression based on their clinical and biological characteristics, akin to what is already happening in oncology and other branches of medicine.

Professor Carmine Pariante, King’s IoPPN

Knowing that the acceptability of treatments and facilities are not equal globally, the ASPIRE team are testing the feasibility and acceptability of anti-inflammatory treatment informed by the tool across different cultural contexts, including in Europe, South Africa and the USA.

At the heart of the project are people with lived experience. Alongside playing a crucial role in the conception and design of ASPIRE, through focus groups, interviews and collaboration, the project will amplify the voices of those affected by depression and advocate for better treatments and understanding. The project aims to change public perception of the role of inflammation in mental health and, in general, on the importance of mind-body interaction in mental disorders.

“ASPIRE will be turning the saying of ‘Nothing about us without us’ into actions” says expert by experience and work package lead, Erik Van der Eycken.

Fanni-Laura Mäntylä, also an expert by experience and work package lead, added “I believe the ASPIRE project has the potential to pave the way for how research today is done. We are not only ‘making science for scientists’, but actually proving how mutual learning, the openness to re-learn, and even un-learn, are the keys needed to find new solutions to old issues.”

Further information on the study can be found at, @aspireresearchstudy on Instagram and @theaspirestudy on X.

In this story

Carmine Pariante

Professor of Biological Psychiatry

Courtney  Worrell

Trial Coordinator