March 2013
The Section “Genetics in Psychiatry”: a new push for educational activities

Thomas G. Schulze, James B. Potash, Vishwajit Nimgaonkar

At the WPA-congress in Buenos Aires in 2011, the members of the WPA-Genetics in Psychiatry Section elected a new leadership. The Section is now headed Thomas G. Schulze (Chair; Göttingen, Germany), Vishwajit Nimgaonkar (Co-Chair; Pittsburgh, PA, USA), and James B. Potash (Secretary; Iowa City, IA, USA). Furthermore, several colleagues representing all areas of psychiatric genetic research have joined the Section as new members. The restructured Section will make educational activities its top priority in the years to come. Its leadership and members will work towards this goal by participating in regional and thematic meetings across the globe. The idea is to educate clinicians and researchers alike in state-of-the-art psychiatric genetic research through a mix of symposia featuring internationally renowned speakers and workshops. The latter are meant to offer a truly educational experience through ample time for discussion and active participation of the audience.

The WPA-co-sponsored meeting “Psychiatry and Related Sciences”, taking place in Athens (Greece) from November 29th through December 2nd, 2012, offered the ideal launching pad for this new initiative. Our section organized two activities: a meet-the-expert session and a symposium. The meet-the-expert session was chaired by Prof. D. Dikeos (Athens) and featured Section Chair Prof. T. G. Schulze giving an update on psychiatric genetics. The audience (see photo) mainly comprised clinicians and researchers at an early stage in their career. A 45-minute presentation by Prof. Schulze was followed by another 45 minutes of lively interaction between the audience, D. Dikeos, and T.G. Schulze. Participants discussed the future of psychiatric genetics, the timeline for a potential applicability of genetic findings to diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis. Training and career opportunities for early career investigators were also a main focus of this late Friday afternoon session. This format was followed by the widely attended Saturday morning symposium on “Pharmacogenetic research in psychiatric disorders”, chaired by Prof. G.N. Papadimitrou (Athens) and Prof. T.G. Schulze. Prof. Dikeos presented a scholarly and comprehensive overview of pharmacogenetic studies of mood disorders, setting an ideal framework for Prof. Schulze’s talk on findings from the international Consortium on Lithium Genetics. Prof. A. Papassotiropoulos (Basel, Switzerland) presented a very well received talk on “Genetics-driven discovery of memory-modulating drugs”, highlighting the role of academia in target identification for pharmaceutical research.

We will build on the excellent experience we made at the Athens meeting and continue to work with the WPA to offer similar educational and scientific formats at future meetings. The next one will be held at the upcoming WPA meeting in Bucharest in April. The Section has also contacted the Indian Psychiatric Society to hold an educational event at their upcoming annual meeting in Pune in January of 2014.

At the Section Chairs’ meeting in Athens, T.G. Schulze discussed with WPA-President Prof. P. Ruiz and WPA-Secretary for Sections Prof. A. Javed the possibility of offering a 1-day educational track at WPA-meetings comprising contributions from various Sections. Our Section is more than happy to explore this in depth with the other Sections and the WPA leadership.

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