Scientific Highlights

The WFSBP is proud to welcome the following plenary speakers at the congress in Vancouver:

Elizabeth Blackburn, USA
Nobel Laureate
Telomeres: What they do – and don’t – tell us

Leroy Hood, USA
Opening Lecture

21st century medicine and dense phenotyping of individuals are transforming healthcare

Elizabeth Blackburn’s presentation will describe how accumulated data indicate that loss of telomere protection is both linked to and, in some cases, causally contributes to, human aging and aging-related diseases. These include cardiovascular disease, stroke, osteoporosis, inflammatory diseases, dementias, diabetes and certain cancers. Influences on human telomere maintenance (often measured in the surrogate form of bulk shortening of telomeres), are only partially genetic. Such Influences also prominently include psychological and life circumstance inputs: notably, severity and durations of chronic stress and depression are quantifiably associated with less robust telomere maintenance. 

Human telomerase activity and telomere maintenance present delicate balancing acts throughout human life. Hence, it is too simplistic and even dangerous to suggest that simply extending telomere length will invariably extend healthspan. This presentation will address the interconnected nature of disease mechanisms, and the potential of manipulating one mechanism to positively or negatively impact other mechanisms. Further understanding of human telomere protection, and its molecular and environmental influences, is anticipated to lead to application for disease treatment and interception.

Over the first 5 years of the 21st century, the Institute for Systems Biology (ISB), began applying systems approaches (holistic, global, cross-disciplinary, integrative) to disease and coined the term systems medicine.  This also led to a convection that healthcare should be predictive, preventive, personalize and participatory (P4).  P4 healthcare recognized the two fundamental domains of healthcare—wellness and disease.
With the emergence of systems medicine, we and others developed the tools that allowed us to consider carrying out dense, longitudinal phenotyping of individuals.  In 2014, we employed dense, longitudinal phenotyping on 108 individuals over a year to initiate efforts to quantify wellness.  Each individual had billions of data points in their personal data clouds.  This effort was so successful, both in improving the health of individuals and in generating fascinating personal data clouds, that we founded the company Arivale in mid-2015 to bring what we termed scientific (quantitative) wellness to consumers.  Arivale now has almost 5000 clients each with their personal data clouds. Finally, in 2016 ISB affiliated with Providence St. Joseph Health a large non-profit healthcare system with the intent to bring P4 medicine into this healthcare system.

I will discuss some preliminary results on the aggregated data clouds from the 108-person pioneer program and the 4000 Arivale members.  The preliminary results both with regard to data analyses and patient responses from these studies are striking and point the way to transforming healthcare.  These data also give us fundamental insights into how to 1) from statistical correlations among blood analytes and other data types lead to new approaches for the identification of biomarkers and drug targets; 2)determine the genetics risk of an individual form more than 100 diseases on which genome wide association studies (GWAS) have been done; 3) determine an individual’s biological age (the age your body says you are rather than the age your birthday says you are)—as a metric for healthy aging; and 4) identify the earliest wellness to disease with the intent of reversing these transitions before they ever manifest themselves as a disease phenotype.

Finally, I will discuss how 21st century medicine (scientific wellness, systems medicine and P4 medicine) is being introduced into a contemporary healthcare system, Providence St. Joseph Health.  These changes are going to transform our approaches wellness and disease of all types and they open fascinating possibilities for studying brain wellness and disease.

George Koob, USA
Neurobiology of addiction: the gain in the brain is in the pain

Brenda Penninx, The Netherlands
Immunometabolic depression: Ready for personalized medicine?

Evan Snyder, USA
Stem cells and their potential for drug discovery for psychiatric disorders


The following debates are scheduled:

Gut microbes are the future of psychopharmacological revolution
Proponent: Ted Dinan, Ireland
Opponent: Emeran Mayer, USA


Bipolar II disorder is a myth
Proponent: Gin Malhi, Australia
Opponent: Andrew Alan Nierenberg, USA


Early intervention for Psychosis: Is it worth the investment?
Proponent: Ashok Malla, Canada
Opponent: David Castle, Australia


Cannabis legalization: Does it make sense?
Proponent: Michael Krausz, Canada
Opponent: Deepak Cyril D´Souza, USA


Scientific Contents

The theme of the congress “Neuroscience Discoveries and Translation to Clinical Practice” was chosen to address two major challenges plaguing the field of mental health i.e. slow progress in new  discoveries and barriers to evidence based application of new discoveries in day-to-day clinical practice to improve patient care.

The congress will be structured to include a neuroscience discovery track and a clinical track. In each track a wide range of sessions will be offered, comprising 

  • an Opening Lecture
  • Plenary Lectures
  • Debates
  • Symposia
  • Workshops
  • WFSBP Task Force Symposia
  • WFSBP Task Force Workshops

as well as

  • Educational Grant Sessions
  • Free Communications
  • Guided Poster Tours

Read more about topics and browse session formats.