LEAP Center™

Investigating First Episode Psychosis

The goal of the Laboratory for Early Psychosis (LEAP) Center is to develop collaborations, data systems, and methods to better understand the unique characteristics in first episode psychosis patient outcomes and treatment impacts.

The LEAP CenterTM is one of the National Institute of Mental Health’s Advanced Laboratories for Accelerating the Reach and Impact of Treatments for Youth and Adults With Mental Illness (ALACRITY) Research Centers. LEAP was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in May 2019.


In order to meet its goals, the LEAP Center aims to take advantage of policy changes enhancing financing for first episode psychosis, practice changes in the field, and methods developed outside of mental health.

LEAP works closely with the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, which receives Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration funds earmarked for first episode care and collects standardized data on clinical care delivery and patient outcomes through MAPNET.

A program of the Department of Psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, MAPNET is supported by a first episode psychosis technical assistance center grant from the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health. MAPNET is dedicated to the early detection and treatment of mental illness, with the goal of connecting and supporting first episode psychosis service providers in Massachusetts.

Clinician-researcher works with younger researcher looking at computer

The LEAP Center will investigate first episode psychosis with the goal of improving patient care

LEAP also collaborates with coordinated specialty care clinics in Massachusetts as well as policy makers/regulators, stakeholders, and first episode psychosis experts from across the country. We have a common goal of mandating, standardizing, and supporting data collection from all first episode psychosis clinics.

Participating clinics include McLean OnTrack, Massachusetts General Hospital First-Episode and Early Psychosis Program, Massachusetts Mental Health Clinic Prevention and Recovery from Early Psychosis (MMHC PREP), Cambridge Health Alliance Recovery in Shared Experience (RISE), Boston Medical Center, and Prevention in Early Psychosis West (PREP West).

Core Support

In addition to its research projects, the LEAP Center includes an administrative and a methods core. The cores will support LEAP investigators and organize activities that bring together center staff, stakeholders in the community, and workers in this area from around the country and the world.

The LEAP Center will have its inaugural conference in the Spring of 2020 to highlight clinical research for stakeholders, the medical community, first episode psychosis clinics, and the public.

LEAP also has a unique built-in mechanism that gives junior investigators the ability to apply for funding for additional projects that will complement and build on the center’s activities.

Project Spotlight

The LEAP Center includes three scientific projects.

Project 1 will use the Massachusetts All Payer Claims Database to examine pathways to care and outcomes among patients within coordinated specialty care clinics and elsewhere.

Project 2 will review the data collected by the state from first episode psychosis clinics to assess and improve data collection quality, validate measures, and integrate perspectives from patients, families, clinicians, policymakers, payers, and other stakeholders.

Group therapy

The McLean OnTrack clinic is one of many treatment programs for first episode psychosis that is sharing data with LEAP

Project 3 will define clusters of patients using longitudinal outcome data. This is the first step to understanding the unique clinical qualities (heterogeneity) of the disease. This project will also predict the cluster type for individual patients and examine the impact of coordinated specialty care treatment accounting for this clinical heterogeneity.

LEAP Center projects will have access to large amounts of data, both reported in claims databases and prospectively assessed over four years. Data collection will include comprehensive clinical measures (diagnosis, treatment, utilization, symptoms), cognition, community functioning, patient/family reports, and clinical and clinic-level measures. This will allow center investigators to conduct extensive analyses that can contribute to our understanding of heterogeneity in first episode psychosis.


Dost Öngür MD, PhD, Center Director

Dr. Öngür is the chief of the Psychotic Disorder Division at McLean Hospital. He is also the director of McLean’s Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder Research Program and the William P. and Henry B. Test Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. In addition to his clinical work, he receives funding from the National Institute of Mental Health and other sources for his research using brain imaging techniques to study chemical abnormalities in patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

John Hsu, MD, MBA, Center Director

Dr. Hsu is the director of the Program for Clinical Economics and Policy Analysis at the Mongan Institute for Health Policy at Massachusetts General Hospital. He studies innovations in health care financing and delivery, and their effects on medical quality and efficiency. With a background in internal medicine, health services research and clinical epidemiology, and health care finance and management, Dr. Hsu brings clinical, population, and business perspectives to these studies. In his work, he primarily uses large automated and electronic health record data sets, often exploiting natural experiments from both clinical and behavioral economics perspectives.

Miguel Hernán, MD, DrPH, Center Director

Dr. Hernán is the Kolokotrones Professor of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He conducts research to learn what works to improve human health. Together with his collaborators, Dr. Hernán designs analyses for causal inference from healthcare databases, epidemiologic studies, and randomized trials.

Advisory Board

  • Donald Addington, MD, Professor of Psychiatry, University of Calgary
  • Cameron Carter, MD, Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology, University of California, Davis
  • Lisa B. Dixon, MD, MPH, Professor of Psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Center
  • Toby Ewing, PhD, Executive Director, California Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission
  • Richard G. Frank, PhD, Margaret T. Morrison Professor of Health Economics, Harvard Medical School
  • Brian Hepburn, MD, Trustee Executive Director, National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors
  • Steven E. Hyman, MD, Director, Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research, Broad Institute of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University
    Joe Parks, MD, Medical Director, National Council for Behavioral Health
  • Robert Rosenheck, MD, Professor of Psychiatry and Health Policy, Yale School of Medicine
  • Jordan W. Smoller, MD, ScD, Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School
  • Eric J. Tchetgen Tchetgen, PhD, Luddy Family President’s Distinguished Professor of Statistics, Wharton Business School, University of Pennsylvania


  • Margarita Alegria, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School
  • Michael E. Chernew, PhD, Leonard D. Schaeffer Professor of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School
  • Richard G. Frank, PhD, Margaret T. Morrison Professor of Health Economics, Harvard Medical School
  • Vicki Fung, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School
  • Sonia Hernandez-Diaz, DPH, MD, Professor of Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • Jane J. Kim, PhD, Professor of Health Decision Science, Harvard Medical School
  • Isaac S. Kohane, MD, PhD, Marion V. Nelson Professor of Biomedical Informatics, Harvard Medical School
  • Joshua P. Metlay, MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital
  • James M. Robins, MD, Mitchell L. and Robin LaFoley Dong Professor in Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • Lidia Maria Veras Rocha de Moura MD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School
  • Soroush Saghafian, PhD, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School
  • Jose R. Zubizarreta, PhD, Associate Professor of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School

Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Mental Health Services Research

LEAP Center is accepting applications for two post-doctoral fellows seeking advanced training in clinical research focused on early psychosis. This opportunity is ideal individuals who have already completed all requirements for PhD, MD, or other relevant doctoral degrees in epidemiology, psychiatry, public health, or other related fields.

Funding LEAP Center Pilot Studies: Request for Applications

The NIMH-funded Laboratory for Early Psychosis (LEAP) Center invites proposals for pilot projects.

We will award up to three scientific projects of up to $50,000 each over a 1-year period. The projects must be focused on clinical research in early psychosis and be aligned with LEAP’s goals. Please note: additional funds are not available for indirect costs.

Specifically, we are looking for pilot projects that leverage insights and approaches from fields outside of psychiatry to enhance the evidence base for understanding heterogeneity of outcomes in early psychosis, the impact of interventions, and the role of policymakers and other stakeholders.

Priority will be given to applications:

  • Led by a junior investigator
  • Involving a faculty mentor with affiliation in the LEAP Center
  • Bringing together an interdisciplinary team of investigators from different departments
  • Including investigators with Harvard affiliation
  • Incorporating community-based, non-academic stakeholders
  • Describing how the pilot project will lead to future extramural funding

Awardees will present during the annual LEAP Center symposium when requested. At the 6-month mark, they will submit brief progress reports. Awardees may be asked to attend a site visit from program officers from the NIMH. Within 30 days of end of funding period, awardees will submit a 1-page report that includes a summary of the research, results, and future plans.

Application Process

Applications must include:

  • A cover letter, including a descriptive title of proposed research, PI name, address, email, and telephone number, and a list of investigators and participating institutions
  • NIH biosketch for PI
  • Project proposal (2 pages including references), including specific aims and hypotheses, significance, innovation, preliminary data, if available, methods, analytic plan, project timeline, and references
  • Budget request (1 page): the maximum budget for direct costs is $50,000, it can include costs for a junior investigator or post-doctoral fellow salary; additional funds are not available for indirect costs

A committee composed of LEAP Center investigators will conduct an initial review to select frontrunner applications. The principal investigators of these applications will then be asked to join an interview to discuss the research and to incorporate feedback to the design of their proposal. This iterative process will lead to the selection of up to three applications for funding.

A committee composed of LEAP Center investigators will conduct an initial review to select frontrunner applications. The principal investigators of these applications will then be asked to join an interview to discuss the research and to incorporate feedback to the design of their proposal. This iterative process will lead to the selection of up to three applications for funding.

Apply Now

Application deadline is January 15. Awards are announced by the end of March. Funding begins May 1.

The committee will consider off-cycle applications if these are exceptionally impactful and time-sensitive. Please contact LEAP Center staff if you are interested in submitting an off-cycle application.

To submit your application or for more information, please contact us by email.