Skip to Main Content

Our Timeline

UCLA launched the Depression Grand Challenge in 2015, but our story spans more than a decade of ambition, collaboration and achievement. We are committed to a concerted effort on a massive scale could achieve a single overarching goal: cutting the burden of depression on health and well-being in half by the year 2050. Selected milestones and achievements are noted in the timeline below. These milestones demonstrate several factors that distinguish the Depression Grand Challenge from other research endeavors: 

2012 | 20132014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018 | 2019 | 2020 | 2021 | 2022 | 2023


UCLA focuses neuroscience grand challenge on depression


UCLA commits to a Grand Challenge on the brain. Michelle Popowitz, assistant vice chancellor for research, is charged with convening campus neuroscientists to explore possible foci for an initiative to tackle a major social problem that UCLA is uniquely positioned to solve. To read more about the UCLA Grand Challenges timeline, refer to the Grand Challenges website.


UCLA selects depression as the focus for this Grand Challenge, and Nelson Freimer is appointed as director of the Depression Grand Challenge (DGC).


UCLA forms the DGC Executive Committee (Nelson Freimer, Michelle Craske and Jonathan Flint (from Oxford University) and the DGC Leadership Council (co-chaired by UCLA Chancellor Gene Block and Garen Stagin).


The DGC launches as a startup


Chancellor Block publicly launches the DGC, and the DGC initiates peer-reviewed demonstration projects in basic neuroscience and human depression studies to establish research teams, infrastructure and an initial research agenda. Eliza Congdon is appointed project director of human studies.


The DGC devises the STAND (Screening and Treatment for Anxiety and Depression) system of care, a new strategy for scalable provision of evidence-based depression treatment, and partners with UCLA Student Affairs and Student Resilience to form the Resilience Peer Network (which later becomes the STAND Coaching program)


UCLA makes STAND available to its students, a pilot project which represented the first such integrated mental health screening and treatment program at any US college or university. Musician and alumna Sara Bareilles records a PSA encouraging students to enroll. 

The DGC develops web-based, anti-stigma programming as part of “Depression: Let’s Talk” World Heath Day campaign.


The DGC organizes an international symposium on digital sensing; this symposium, aimed at fostering collaboration, reflects the DGC Executive Committee’s decision to prioritize research on digital sensing in depression as the central element of its programs.


UCLA Vice Chancellor for Research Roger Wakimoto initiates a review of the DGC; following a self-assessment, an external review committee conducts a site visit and recommends that UCLA create a more formalized structure for the DGC with stable funding.  

In 2019, the DGC forms an action and research team (ART) to focus on gaps in understanding about stigma. The idea of a best practice hub and resource center (a dissemination strategy) is generated by this group.


DGC grows & matures


UCLA formalizes the DGC structure as a department under the UCLA Office of Research and Creative Activities, with secure campus funding, administered by a new full-time executive director (Michelle Popowitz). The DGC director reports to the chancellor through a new Chancellor’s Advisory Committee (Vice Chancellors for Research, Health Sciences and Student Affairs).   

DGC creates STAND 2.0, featuring UCLA-developed modular content and a new treatment platform.

Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health (LACDMH) funds a demonstration project of STAND 2.0 for community college students at East Los Angeles College (ELAC), and the DGC initiates a large-scale training program for new STAND coaches.

UCLA and Apple initiate the Digital Mental Health Study, a four-year collaboration to assess the utility of digital sensing in assessing depression and depression-related symptoms through two pilot studies and a main study.

The DGC offers resources to the public to meet growing mental health needs emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic. With support from Beyoncé’s BeyGOOD, Jack Dorsey’s Start Small and from anonymous donors, this content includes the COVID-19 Care Package and STAND for All.

DGC leadership releases a social justice solidarity statement committing to reexamine our practices and systems and create more free resources to help those experiencing despair as a result of race-based trauma and traumatic events.


The DGC establishes the Social Justice Advisory Committee to help ensure programs and decisions promote social justice and anti-racism. Inaugural members include: Jeanne Miranda (chair), Gaby Aguilera, Denise Chavira, Nicole Green, Stan Huey, Tamar Kodish, Isabelle Lanser and Anna Lau.

The DGC initiates its first clinical trial in UCLA Health, a randomized control trial of STAND compared to standard care for postpartum depression.

The DGC investigators receive funding to participate in Wellcome Leap Multi-Channel Psych initiative focused on anhedonia (OPTIMA and ILIAD).

The DGC launches UCLA Depression Research Registry in collaboration with UCLA Center for SMART Health to identify and pre-register potential research participants.


The main UCLA-Apple Digital Mental Health Study begins, enrolling more than 4,000 participants in the largest and longest study of its kind yet conducted.

STAR (Stress and Resilience) program launches, the first integration of STAND with an existing mental healthcare system (UCLA CAPS).

The National Institute of Mental Health funds the UCLA STAND for Community Colleges Innovation Center under the ALACRITY Center funding mechanism.

The DGC announces a five-year strategic plan and priorities with funding goals.


The DGC hosts a Digital Sensing Workshop at UCLA to establish standards and advance the use of digital tools for mental health research.

Depression Research Registry reaches milestone 25,000 participants in May and expands recruitment beyond UCLA.

The DGC establishes a communications team to spread the story of its work.

The DGC hires an inaugural social justice policy analyst to advance the program’s commitment to justice, equity and inclusion.