At the beginning of the month, I was lucky enough to attend a residential course held by the British Association for Psychopharacology (BAP) in Cambridge. The training, which was held over four days, provided an overview of many major techniques used in this area of scientific research, as well as advances within the field.
We heard about cutting-edge research, from experts in academia, industry and the heath care sector. Our first lecture started with the basic concepts of genomics, and went on to the difficulties involved in interpreting genome-wide association studies (GWAS), an approach which is sometimes used to identify candidate genes for genetically complex neurological disorders. Another talk covered techniques including optogenetics and designer G-protein-coupled receptors (DREADDs). We went over the advantages of both these methods, which are used to precisely control neural activity, but also touched upon some of the limitations that still exist with these technologies. Other talks covered application of imaging methods and behavioural models.
Lectures were broken up by workshops on statistics and experimental design, as well as a group project. In a workshop focusing on PK/PD calculations, I was introduced to the concept of counter clockwise hysteresis plots. This is when you see two different response levels at a given drug concentration, the result of a delayed effect of the drug at the target. During this session, we spoke about the importance of considering these factors when designing a study as to avoid producing misleading data.
For our group project, we were given the task to form a Drug Discovery leadership team, where we had to choose a drug target for a neurodegenerative disorder, which we deemed to be the strongest candidate. With this target in mind, we put together a plan outlining why it is a worthy target and how we would go about identifying a molecule to take to clinic. Our conclusions were pitched later in the week in a “Dragons’ Den” like situation to see if our case was strong enough to get funding.
As part of the course, we took a trip to the Addenbrook’s hospital where we had the opportunity to take a tour around The Wolfson Brain Imaging Centre. Here we were able to see their clinical and pre-clinical imaging facilities, which included Positron Emission Tomography and Magnetic Resonance Imaging and heard about some of the ongoing research in the department.
After the intensive days, we all had the chance to sit down as a group for dinner and talk to the individuals who had presented throughout the day and had after dinner talks including one from the president of BAP. On the final evening, we headed down to Queens’ College, where we were presented with our certificates in Non-clinical psychopharmacology, which was a perfect way to finish off the course.
As someone who is relatively new to the area of research, I took away a lot from the course. I would definitely recommend this programme and believe that it could be beneficial for individuals at any stage of their career. The programme provided a fantastic platform to network and interact with others from many different area of psychopharmacology. I am excited to attend the BAP summer meeting 2018 to hear more from world leading scientist in both clinical and non-clinical psychopharmacology, and attend the evening disco, which has even been described as legendary!
Blog written by Olivia Simmonds