- 20 July 2017
1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Thursday 20 JULy 2017, 1.00 PM
Auditorium, Level 6, Bancroft Building
Lessons from Genome-Wide Association studies of psychiatric disorders: What’s next?
Professor Eske Derks,
QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute
In the last decade, Genome-Wide Association Studies (GWAS) have revealed robust associations between genetic variants and complex traits, including psychiatric disorders and substance dependence. Despite these successes, it is beyond any doubt that the majority of the genetic risk factors for these disorders yet remains to be detected. Psychiatric disorders are highly polygenic, meaning that thousands of genetic variants contribute to disease risk while individual genetic variants have a small effect. In addition, even for those statistical associations that do meet statistical significance, the functional relevance of identified SNPs remains unclear, since the majority of genetic risk variants is located in non-coding regions of the genome. This suggests that these variants act through the regulation of gene expression rather than by altering the protein product. I will discuss some of the most urgent questions in the genetics field to date. I will show how focusing on genetic variants that regulate gene expression (and that are therefore a priori more likely to be associated with disease risk) improves the statistical power to detect novel genetic risk factors and improves the identification of underlying gene mechanisms.
Since January 2017, professor Eske Derks is Principle Research fellow and group leader of the Translational Neurogenomics group at QIMR Berghofer. As PI or co-investigator on several national and EU-funded studies, she investigates the role of genetic factors in psychiatric conditions, including depression, addiction, anxiety disorders, compulsive disorders, and schizophrenia. She has published >90 peer-reviewed articles in which she aims to understand how genetic factors contribute to the liability to develop psychiatric disorders. The ultimate aim of her research is to understand the biological mechanisms that contribute to variation in the risk to develop mental disorders. She is associate editor of Drug and Alcohol Dependence and co-PI of the International Cannabis Consortium that meta-analyses genetic data of >30,000 subjects to identify genetic risk factors of cannabis consumption. Previous positions were held at the Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam (2012-2016), University Medical Center Utrecht (2007-2011). She has a PhD in Behavior Genetics, obtained at the Free University Amsterdam.