Emerging researcher appointed to James Packer Chair in Mood Disorders at UNSW


A headshot photo of Aswin Ratheesh

Dr Aswin Ratheesh plans to focus his research on people experiencing the early course of bipolar disorder.

Stefanie Menezes
Stefanie Menezes,

Dr Aswin Ratheesh is a leading clinical researcher in mood and psychotic disorders who is passionate about prompt and early access to interventions for people with such conditions.

Mental health disorders expert and clinician researcher Dr Aswin Ratheesh has been appointed to lead the James Packer Chair in Mood Disorders at UNSW Sydney. 

The appointment comes after prominent businessman and investor James Packer, jointly with The Packer Family Foundation, made a $7 million gift to establish the role last year.

“It is important to me that our understanding of complex mental health conditions, such as mood disorders, improves and I’m pleased to see Dr Ratheesh’s appointment as Chair given his expertise in this type of research,” Mr Packer said. “I look forward to seeing how his contribution not only generates positive outcomes in this field, but improves the lives of all those suffering with mental health issues.”

The Chair will lead a new unit at UNSW and the Mindgardens Neuroscience Network that will conduct rigorous research in mental health, with a particular focus on mood disorders such as bipolar disease. The gift also funds a team of researchers to support the Chair.

Dr Ratheesh’s research is focused on understanding pathways leading to the onset of mood disorders and finding ways to provide effective treatments for individuals who develop such conditions. He has worked as a psychiatrist for over 12 years both in youth and adult mental health settings and has led several studies that have helped identify risk markers for future bipolar disorder. 

“I am thrilled and grateful for the opportunity to lead the James Packer Chair in Mood Disorders. I plan to focus on people experiencing the early course of bipolar disorder, and best ways for them to access the right treatment particularly using digital means,” Dr Ratheesh said.

“I am also very keen to better understand the different trajectories and subgroups of people as they develop this condition so we can consider opportunities for prevention, and also tailor our treatments.” 

Dr Ratheesh believes some of the current knowledge gaps in mood disorders include our ability to predict who will develop such conditions, who is at risk of worsening, and who will respond to specific treatments. 

“There are also large gaps in our understanding of healthcare solutions to address the unmet need for care for those with bipolar disorder,” he said. “Effective, sustainable and hopefully longer-term solutions are needed to address these healthcare gaps. I hope to be able to address both these challenges through new observational studies and by developing digitally enhanced interventions.”

There are also large gaps in our understanding of healthcare solutions to address the unmet need for care for those with bipolar disorder.
Dr Aswin Ratheesh

Mindgardens is the first translational research centre in Australia to focus exclusively on disorders that involve the brain, including mental health, addictions and neurological disorders. The UNSW Discipline of Psychiatry and Mental Health is widely renowned as the pre-eminent psychiatry research department in the country and one of the leading university psychiatry research groups internationally.

Professor Kimberlie Dean, Head of the Discipline of Psychiatry and Mental Health at UNSW Sydney, said UNSW is home to an outstanding mental health research community with key partners across the Mindgardens Neuroscience Network at the Randwick Health & Innovation Precinct.

 “These types of fully privately funded positions are uncommon, and we are thrilled to have one devoted to mental health disorders at UNSW,” Prof. Dean said. “Under the leadership of Dr. Ratheesh, an emerging clinical research star in the mental health field in Australia, and his team of post-doctoral and doctoral students, our researchers and partners will be able to push forward research on the prevention, treatment and cure of mood disorders like bipolar disorder.

 “Given the intertwined nature of mental health challenges, developing new treatments and interventions for people experiencing mental health disorders provides hope not only for affected individuals and their families but to society as a whole,” she said.

Professor Jackie Curtis, Executive Director of Mindgardens Neuroscience Network, said: “Dr. Ratheesh’s appointment enhances the Randwick precinct’s leadership in early intervention for young people with emerging mental health disorders. I am looking forward to working closely with Dr Ratheesh and his team to identify ways to bring his discoveries rapidly into clinical practice, where they have the potential to change the course of young people’s lives.” 

Dr Ratheesh currently leads an NHMRC Partnership grant in early intervention for bipolar disorder and is a chief investigator on a Centre of Research Excellence grant in early intervention for bipolar disorder. He co-leads the International Society of Bipolar Disorders Taskforce on Early Intervention and is an Associate Editor for the leading journal, the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry. He has received awards from the International Early Psychosis Association and the Australasian Society for Bipolar and Depressive Disorders for his research. 

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Stefanie Menezes

Tel: 02 9065 3225

Email: s.menezes@unsw.edu.au