At the start of Mental Health Week, the Premier Morris Iemma and the Minister for Science and Medical Research Verity Firth officially launched Australia's first Chair of Schizophrenia Research and its associated laboratory - an important step in a major collaboration that puts New South Wales at the forefront of the fight against the disease.

The Macquarie Bank Foundation Chair of Schizophrenia Research and its laboratory are located at the Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute (POWMRI). The Chair is an initiative of the Schizophrenia Research Institute (SRI) and is funded by a $1.375 million donation from the Foundation over five years.

The Chair has been filled by University of New South Wales (UNSW) Professor Cyndi Shannon Weickert, a world renowned researcher.

Mr Iemma and Ms Firth also announced $2.45 million funding for a Schizophrenia Evidence Library and a second professorial chair, in Schizophrenia Epidemiology and Population Health Research - also an Australian first - to be based at UNSW.

POWMRI Executive Director & CEO, Professor Peter Schofield says the Institute is delighted to host the Schizophrenia Research Laboratory, which will be an important tool in the battle against a debilitating mental illness that costs the Australian community $2.6 billion annually.

Dean of UNSW's Faculty of Medicine, Professor Peter Smith, says the new professorial chair in Schizophrenia Epidemiology and Population Health Research will be a first for Australia and will conduct population based research into schizophrenia using new and existing databases.

"This Chair will complement the Macquarie Bank Foundation Chair in Schizophrenia Research through strong collaborative links and, through this, both Chairs will make significant and unique contributions to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of schizophrenia," he says.

Head of the Macquarie Bank Foundation, Ms Julie White, says the Foundation is extremely proud to be a major partner of SRI and involved with such an important initiative.

"Finding answers to this disease will not happen without significant resources being applied to bench top science," she said.

Professor Vaughan Carr, CEO of SRI says the $11 million collaboration between so many organisations is an exciting development.

"This unique partnership between government, the corporate sector and the research community positions NSW at the forefront of the Australian schizophrenia research effort, and will facilitate the translation of research into early detection, better treatment and prevention."

Media contacts: Susi Hamilton, UNSW Media, 9385 1583, 0422 934 024