Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Tuesday a $5.2 million National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) grant to fund a collaboration between researchers at Florida International University and Tel Aviv University to test a novel treatment for child social-anxiety disorder that could open new therapies to help children with this condition.

“This trip to Israel headed by Governor Ron DeSantis is key in helping us at FIU create and deepen important partnerships in a number of strategic areas,” said FIU president Mark Rosenberg, who is part of the Florida delegation visiting Israel this week. “At FIU, we look for partners interested in leveraging our respective strengths to break new scientific ground and bring economic activity to Florida and Miami-Dade County. Israel is entrepreneurial and ripe for this kind of collaboration.”

The project is expected to provide a new, effective treatment for the impacted population by developing groundbreaking computer-based interventions. Anxiety disorders are among the most common and impairing child mental-health problems, affecting more than 10 percent of children.

The NIMH study is headed by FIU psychology professor Jeremy Pettit in collaboration with Yair Bar-Haim from Tel Aviv University and colleagues at Yale University.

“This study leverages our expertise in clinical trials for child anxiety at FIU and Yale with expertise in computer-based treatments at TAU,” said Pettit, who leads the Child Anxiety and Phobia Program in the FIU Center for Children and Families. “We are confident that combining our respective areas of expertise will result in a new and effective treatment for children who suffer from social anxiety disorder.”

While in Israel, Rosenberg is also signing agreements with other partners to explore the possibility of collaboration between FIU and TAU in areas such as autism-related research, and disaster and emergency management. FIU has unique and highly regarded programs in each of these areas: FIU Embrace and the Academy for International Disaster Preparedness.

During his visit, Rosenberg also met with a group of FIU students who were on a Birthright Israel trip.

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