Overarching goal: Finding objective biomarkers for better diagnosis and treatment for schizophrenia and related illnesses.

Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that affects approximately 1% of the population. Progress in the treatment of schizophrenia has been hampered by our limited understanding of disease mechanisms and the lack of quantifiable markers for risk assessment, disease progression, or monitoring treatment efficacy (biomarkers).

The Schizophrenia Spectrum Biomarkers Consortium (SSBC) was established in November 2018 with the collective goal of identifying biomarkers in schizophrenia and related disorders, with a major focus on fluid biomarkers. The SSBC strives to accomplish this goal through collaborative efforts and coordination of research strategies, sample and data collection, assays, analytical methods, and data sharing.

The SSBC aims to identify biomarkers by testing hypotheses emerging from large-scale genomic studies of schizophrenia and related illnesses. Recent findings from human genomics studies implicated complement factor 4 (C4) genes to be associated with schizophrenia risk. C4 and other proteins in the complement cascade are involved in the elimination or ‘pruning’ of synapses between neurons, a process that happens largely during adolescence in the maturing brain. This observation provides new support for the hypothesis that schizophrenia onset or progression might result from defects in brain maturation, beginning with excessive synaptic pruning during adolescence. Measuring complement proteins, and other analytes as new hypotheses emerge, in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is currently the closest way of assessing their involvement in relevant biological processes in the brain.

In 2021, the SSBC is launching a clinical research study to collect biological samples and detailed clinical, cognitive, and neuroimaging data from individuals with schizophrenia spectrum disorders and individuals without these disorders. Each study site will collect data and samples over several time points. We aim to expand this study to new sites and curate a valuable resource for the scientific community that will provide preliminary data to inform clinical trials and ultimately, lead to new drug development efforts.