Message from the President - December 2013

Message from the President - December 2013
ECNP e-news
Message from the President
Thursday 19 December 2013

Guy Goodwin

We held the annual winter meeting of the Executive Committee (EC) of ECNP at the beginning of the month. I must pay tribute to my colleagues who donate their time to serve on the EC and who contributed brilliantly to discussion of our current issues. The strategy we affirmed and the decisions we made will set the course for the coming year.

I referred previously to the difficulty that the word neuropsychopharmacology poses for younger supporters of ECNP. It clearly and necessarily reflects the origins of the College 25 years ago. At that time, research on psychoactive drugs and the development of new medicines was taking place in a well-established framework which had pharmacological science at its centre. Translation was largely from simple neuropharmacological models of drug action in animals. Medicinal chemistry built a pharmacology directed to a small number of targets. The fruit hung relatively low and pharma at times over-did the harvest.

We are now in a very different era. Traditional psychiatric diagnoses are under pressure from alternative formulations that derive from neuroscience. The time may not be right to ditch DSM-style diagnosis wholesale, but there are likely to be big changes nevertheless. A major driver will be the imperative to re-focus treatments earlier in the life course, before familiar adult illness patterns are established. Neuroscience insights into vulnerability or early stage psychiatric disorders are quite likely to translate into different formulations of what a treatment target is. Treatments are as likely to be based on behaviour change or bias re-training as drugs.

Big pharma is facing a crisis of its own in all this. It grew unsustainably on the profits from blockbuster drugs. Companies now need a major re-think of their own approach. Translation of neuroscience is difficult and will require innovation and serendipity perhaps best fostered in academia and small biotech.

Who knows? Anyway, ECNP wants to provide a home for translational neuroscience and so be part of what may prove to be an exciting new era of discovery.

It was tempting to suggest a re-naming of ECNP to reflect the new realities, but we do not propose to do so at this stage. We believe ECNP has a growing identity and the initials provide the sign or label we need. When you buy a BMW, you may be hardly aware of what the letters stand for but you do know what the brand stands for. So ECNP it will remain.

However, we do need to explain our core mission (my apologies, it is hard to avoid this tired word in this context). We have started to tag ‘neuroscience applied’ to our literature. We plan to modify that to ‘translating neuroscience’ to emphasise our active promotion of research and good practice. This approach seems to have the great advantage of flexibility, adaptability and comprehensibility. Tell us if we are wrong.

In closing, please accept my very best wishes for Christmas and the new year and enjoy your holiday.


Best regards,

Guy Goodwin, ECNP President

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Dear Guy I believe that the efflorescence of psychopharmacology between the 1950's and the 1970's had zero to do with neuroscience. It was entirely due to the clinical observation of unexpected clinical benefits,usually called serendipity. The efflorescence of neuroscience is directly due to enthusiasm whipped up by clinical psychopharmacological successes,in particular the precipitation of remission. The stagnation of new drug discovery implies ,not the lack of deep neuroscience or our continued ignorance of brain dysfunctions ,that have been simplistically analogized to synaptic malfunction. I think it was Alfred North Whitehead who said the most common mistake is ignoring context. My suggestion is that shortsighted changes in medical practice (e.g. short hospital stays ) have been deeply anti-serendipitous. Remedying that context requires attention Cordially Don Klein

by: Don Klein (20/12/2013 12:24)

Nice Reflective piece. Really Like suggestion by Nigel Hawkins 'translating neuroscience into clinical practice' Jo Rowley.

by: jo rowley (20/12/2013 11:13)

Sounds good to me. I would add the additional tag of "clinical practice" so that the mission is clear. (Translating neuroscience into clinical practice).

by: Nigel Hawkins (19/12/2013 20:57)