Psychiatry secures research funding from South Korea

The UNMC Department of Psychiatry Research Division announced $141,000 in funding from the South Korea Ministry of Science, Information and Technology. Soonjo Hwang, MD, research director for the UNMC Department of Psychiatry, said the funding will be used to conduct a clinical study of virtual reality assessments of ADHD.

The new study is for children with ADHD, ages 5-13.

“This will be a phase I study for the feasibility of this project/product in the US, and we already started discussing Phase II in the next year if this becomes successful, with larger funding and larger scope of work including intervention studies,” Dr. Hwang said. “The funding application was a very competitive process, and everyone worked really hard to receive this among many other very competitive applicants.”

Dr. Hwang traveled to South Korea in early 2023 to discuss funding with leaders of the South Korean Ministry of Science and Technology to obtain grants for several projects, including the current project.

“The South Korean government is very much interested in supporting this international collaboration project, especially on child and adolescent behavioral health research,” Dr. Hwang said. “We are aiming to build a strong international partnership with them.”

While in South Korea, Dr. Hwang met with officials at Hippo T&C, a South Korean company that has developed ADHD diagnostic and therapeutic tools, which are combined efforts of medicine, engineering, and psychiatry. According to its website, Hippo T&C is opening a new horizon for collecting and analyzing digital biomarkers in everyday life and managing and treating health in a personalized way.

Dr. Hwang also is talking with the researchers at Mount Sinai Health Systems in New York City for this project. The two health systems have discussed working together to conduct a multi-site trial with the goal of bringing the South Korean company’s virtual reality technology to the United States.

As part of the project, Dr. Hwang sent Minjoo Kang, the department of psychiatry’s clinical study coordinator, to South Korea to discuss execution of the clinical trial with the Hippo T&C executives. 

Kang spent six weeks in South Korea. The plan is to have her as the lead coordinator of the project. Dr. Hwang hopes to have the multi-site study up and going within the next 12 months.