By: Elizabeth Fernandez
FIU, Tel Aviv University and Yale University are collaborating on treatment research for anxiety disorders in children. They received a $5.2 million grant provided by the National Institute of Mental Health.
The effort is led by Governor Ron DeSantis, who was joined by FIU President Mark Rosenberg on his controversial trip to Israel. Rosenberg told the Miami Herald Israel is “entrepreneurial and ripe for this kind of collaboration.”
During their research, the universities will test new treatments by developing computer-based interventions for clinical trials, according to a press release. The partnership aims at aiding children who suffer from excessive anxiety and fear when faced with social situations.
“A major goal of this business development mission is to bring academic institutions together to find innovative solutions to issues facing both Florida and Israel,” DeSantis said in a statement.
Jeremy Pettit, chair of the Psychology department and director of the Child Anxiety and Phobia department in the FIU Center for Children and Families, says the University submitted its application for the grant in June 2018, long before the governor’s planned trip in an email to the Miami Herald. Tel Aviv University was actively involved in the grant application process, according to Pettit.
For Pettit the collaboration came as he was trying to find treatments for children with anxiety disorders that did not respond well to FIU’s gold-standard treatments.
At FIU Pettit works with cognitive behavior therapy which 30 percent of children treated, he says, do not respond to.
Yale University’s involvement includes professor Wendy Silverman, who is the Director of the Yale Child Study Center Program for Anxiety Disorders. In their research, FIU and Yale will launch randomized control trials over the course of five years. They will split testing their new treatment technology on 260 children between both universities.
Pettit’s correspondence with TAU professor Yair Bar-Haim began in 2011. With Bar-Haim’s expertise in computer-based treatments, the collaboration aims to treat patients more efficiently.
“We hope this will be an effective form of treatment. It’s short, doesn’t require highly trained professionals, making it a cost effective option,” Pettit said.