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Johnson & Johnson and Scientists Without Borders Announce Winners of Mental Health Awareness Challenge

$10,000 prize awarded for innovative ideas to increase awareness and utilization of mental health services in developing countries

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NEW YORK, February 11, 2014 Johnson & Johnson, in collaboration with Scientists Without Borders, today announced the winners of a $10,000 open innovation challenge that called for ideas to increase awareness and utilization of mental health services for depression and anxiety disorders among patients in the developing world.

Two winners, Veena S. Katikineni, a medical student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, MD, and Alejandra Leyton, a Bolivian health economist pursuing an MPH at Tulane University in New Orleans, LA, share the Scientists Without Borders Mental Health Awareness Challenge prize for their winning concept, “Mhealth for Mental Health.” The concept proposes the use of SMS text messages to deliver information about community resources and mental health disease to depressed or anxious individuals and their communities. The use of mobile technologies would aim to empower patients to seek help in combatting mental health problems, which pose severe public health consequences in low-and middle-income countries. In these settings, lack of awareness and education, as well as social stigma, pose a significant barrier to patients in need of mental health treatment.

Katikineni and Leyton note the idea was developed through a joint effort through which they “drew lessons from our own experiences both in the developing and developed world to consider the barriers to dealing with any kind of personal problem and securing continued social support.”

“Mobile phones and technologies are widely used in the developing world, and SMS text messages are an ideal way to discreetly provide education and support to patients living in low- and middle-income communities, where mental health challenges are often heavily stigmatized,” says Husseini K. Manji, MD, Global Head, Neuroscience Therapeutic Area, Janssen Research & Development, LLC, a Johnson & Johnson company. “We believe this has strong potential to enable people to seek care for mental illness, and that it will help to create hope for effective treatment.”

The winners were chosen by an independent expert selection panel convened by Scientists Without Borders, including:

  • Anne E. Becker, MD, PhD, SM, Maude and Lillian Presley Professor of Global Health and Social Medicine, and Vice Chair, Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School;
  • Pamela Y. Collins, MD, MPH, Director, Office for Research of Disparities & Global Mental Health, and Director, Office of Rural Mental Health Research, National Institute of Mental Health/NIH;
  • Steven E. Hyman, MD, Director, Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research, Broad Institute, MIT and Distinguished Service Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology, Harvard University;
  • Hilmi Quraishi, Co-Founder ZMQ, a technology-for-development social enterprise based India and Elected Ashoka Fellow;
  • and Vikram Patel, FMedSci, Professor of International Mental Health and Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow in Clinical Science at the Centre for Global Mental Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; co-founder and member Management Committee, Sangath, Goa, India; and Director, Center for Mental Health, Public Health Foundation of India.

The Mental Health Awareness Challenge project is related to the Healthy Minds Initiative, launched in 2011 by the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, which strives to accelerate progress in the fight against brain disorders—through basic discovery, clinical translation, and multi-sector collaboration—and to help educate people about brain disorders and reduce the stigma that is associated with them.

“We are very pleased to work collaboratively with the New York Academy of Science’s Scientists Without Borders on this challenge,” said Seema Kumar, Vice President, Enterprise Innovation and Global Health Communications, Johnson & Johnson. “Programs like this one help to encourage innovative solutions to serious public health challenges and unmet medical needs.”

More information about the winning solution is available on the Scientists Without Borders website at:

About Johnson & Johnson
Caring for the world, one person at a time inspires and unites the people of Johnson & Johnson. We embrace research and science - bringing innovative ideas, products and services to advance the health and well-being of people. Our approximately 128,000 employees at more than 275 Johnson & Johnson operating companies work with partners in health care to touch the lives of over a billion people every day, throughout the world.


Seema Kumar
Johnson & Johnson
908-218-6460 or

Greg Panico
Janssen Research & Development, LLC
908-240-2011 or

Virginia Amann
Johnson & Johnson
608-207-0082 or

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