Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

Pioneers in deep brain stimulation and cardiovascular diseases address RCSI Human Disease Mapping conference

30 January 2014

Professor Helen Mayberg, renowned pioneer of deep brain stimulation to treat conditions such as depression, and Dr Jonathan Thon, a leading researcher in therapies for cardiovascular diseases are the keynote speakers at the inaugural RCSI Human Disease Mapping conference. The two-day conference which begins today at RCSI (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland) was organised by small group of RCSI PhD scholars and will showcase the impacts made by young researchers across the world in the refinement of therapeutics and improvement of diagnostics in human disease.

The conference aims to promote scientific progress and to stimulate free exchange of ideas and findings among young researchers devoted to exploring the evolving map of human disease. Scientific sessions will cover a wide range of life-science themes, including neuroscience and psychiatry; cancer and respiratory disease; cardiovascular disease; and regenerative medicine, with emphasis on the unique impact that young investigators have made in the development of new therapies and diagnostics for disease.

Professor Helen Mayberg delivers her keynote address

Professor Helen Mayberg, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, USA delivered the opening keynote address this morning on the topic: ‘Rethinking Depression and its Treatments: Insights from Studies of Deep Brain Stimulation’. Professor Mayberg has made astonishing breakthroughs in the field of deep brain stimulation - an invasive but reversible technique involving the implantation of electrodes into the brain to treat depression, Parkinson’s Disease and other disorders. Her work, which has yielded widespread success in the treatment of major depression, has been heralded as one of the first hypothesis-driven treatment strategies for a major mental illness.

Dr Jonathan Thon, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, USA, will deliver the afternoon keynote address: ‘An Impactful Scientific Career’. Dr Thon is an award winning early career researcher. Dr Thon’s research focusses on developing bio-mimetic microfluidic platforms to generate functional platelets and new targeted therapies for thrombocytopenia.

Keynote speaker Dr Jonathan Thon taking part in the Round Table Discussion

Professor Gerry McElvaney, RCSI Professor of Medicine and Director of the structured PhD programme in which the organising committee of scholars are enrolled, said: ‘This conference is a fitting pinnacle of achievement by these PhD scholars who are in their final year in an innovative structured PhD programme in Diagnostics and Therapeutics for Human Disease, funded by the Health Research Board in Ireland. The scholars have done a fantastic job in organising this international conference; it is a tribute to their creativity and enthusiasm that we have two stellar keynote speakers addressing the conference and participating in round table discussions. In addition, the students have arranged data blitz presentations and an industry panel session to include career development advice across a range of opportunities.’

Members of the conference Organising Committee and Steering Committee (clockwise from left) Christopher Whelan, Paul McKiernan, Dr Helen McVeigh (School of Postgraduate Studies and Steering Committee), Colm Duffy, James Reynolds, Linda Williams, Annachiara Mitrugno and Justina Senkus (School of Postgraduate Studies and Steering Committee).

Oral and poster presentations will be delivered by PhD scholars and postdoctoral research fellows, while a number of key industry figures will discuss recent breakthroughs and potential career opportunities in their field. An evening reception on Thursday 30th will present an excellent opportunity for participants to network with their peers, experienced academics and industry representatives. A round table discussion on the 31st will encourage scientific cross-talk between researchers. This format will allow all the participants to meet, exchange scientific ideas and discuss future research plans.

For further information on the programme visit:

Founded in 1784, RCSI's mission is to develop healthcare leaders who make a difference worldwide. RCSI is a not-for-profit health sciences organisation which focuses on education and research to drive positive change in all areas of human health worldwide. RCSI is headquartered in Dublin and is a recognised College of the National University of Ireland.