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European Month of the Brain - May 2013



Robin ALI – University College London, UK

Robin Ali picture Robin Ali is Professor of Human Molecular Genetics at UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, London where he is also Head of Department of Genetics. He also holds a faculty positions at UCL Institute of Child Health and is the Theme Leader for Gene Therapy at NIHR Biomedical Research Centre for Ophthalmology, Moorfields Eye Hospital. The main focus of his research is the development of gene and cell therapy for the treatment of retinal disorders. As chief investigator, he established the world's first clinical trial of gene therapy for retinopathy. The results from this trial reporting an improvement in vision (New England J Med, 2008), along with results from two other trials, established proof-of-principle of gene therapy for inherited retinal degeneration and are widely regarded as a landmark for the whole gene therapy field. His group has also provided the first proof-of-concept for effective transplantation of photoreceptors (Nature 2006; Nature, 2012) which has provide the basis for ES cell-derived photoreceptor transplantation, now a major programme in his laboratory. Robin Ali and members of his team have received numerous prizes and awards for their work on developing new treatments for retinal degeneration including the Pfizer /ARVO Karl Camras Translational Award in 2010 and Alcon Research Institute Award in 2009. In 2007 he was elected to the UK Academy of Medical Sciences and in 2009 appointed Senior Investigator of The UK National Institute of Health Research. He serves on the advisory boards of a number of funding bodies including the UK Medical Research Council (Neurosciences and Mental Health Board and the Regenerative Medicine Research Committee) as well as the advisory boards of pharmaceutical and biotech companies, including Alcon/Novartis and ReGenX.. He obtained his BSc (1988) and PhD in Genetics (1993) at University College London, continued by postdoctoral training at the MRC National Institute for Medical Research and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and established his laboratory at UCL Institute of Ophthalmology in 1999.

Peter ANDERSEN – Chair of the EFPIA Research Director Group, H. Lundbeck, DK

Peter ANDERSEN picture Dr. P.H. Andersen is Senior Vice President of External Relations & Corporate Patents at H. Lundbeck A/S. Lundbeck is a CNS focussed Pharmaceutical Company headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark. Dr. Andersen was employed in Lundbeck R&D in 1999 and was until 2011 Executive Vice President of Research. Prior to joining Lundbeck he was Vice President and Director of Drug Discovery in Acadia Pharmaceuticals and prior to that he held various positions at Novo Nordisk from 1983-1997, latest as Corporate Project Director. Dr. Andersen has been involved in start up of a number of biotech's in Medicon Valley over the years. Currently, he is Chairman of the Board of Directors in Epitherapeutics Aps and Prexton Therapeutics SA. He is Chair of the Research Directory Group in EFPIA and is member of the Innovative Medicine Initiative Governing Board. Dr. Andersen holds degrees in chemistry, biochemistry and medicine from University of Copenhagen.

Maria Teresa ARREDONDO –Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, ES

Maria Teresa ARREDONDO picture Maria T. Arredondo received the degree in Electrical engineering from the National University of Tucuman in 1976 and her master in Hygiene, Health and Work Security in the National University of technology, Argentina in 1981. In February 1987 she got the PhD in Telecommunication (Cum Laude) at the Valencia University of Technology, Spain. Since 1992 she is full Professor of Bioengineering at the Technical University of Madrid (UPM). Presently, she is the Director of the Vodafone Chair and the Director of Latin-America Affairs at UPM. She has been principal investigator of 60 granted scientific & technical projects dealing with ambient intelligence applied to the social and healthcare sector. Her current research interests include ambient intelligence frameworks for better health and social inclusion, integrated multimedia platforms for health professionals, technologies for chronic disease management, virtual reality systems and human factors. Currently, she is leading the UPM participation in some of the most challenging projects funded by the EU in the seventh framework programme in the area of e-health. She is the author of 10 books and more than 300 scientific papers. Prof. Arredondo is founder member of the Sociedad Argentina de Bioingeniería (SABI), member of the Asociación Argentina de Luminotecnia, the Comisión Directiva de la Asociacióen Española de Ingeniería Biomédica (until 1992), the New York Academy of Sciences, the American Telemedicine Asociation (ATA) and Independent Living Forum of the European Union.

Mary G. BAKER – European Brain Council

Mary G. BAKER picture Mary Baker, MBE, is President of the European Brain Council, immediate past President of the European Federation of Neurological Associations, Consultant to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Chair of the Working Group on Parkinson's Disease formed by the WHO in May 1997. A Patron of the European Parkinson's Disease Association (EPDA) and the former past President of EPDA, Mary served as Chief Executive of the Parkinson's Disease Society of the United Kingdom for a period of 18 years. Significant appointments include membership of the Council of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), the ABPI Code of Practice, IMI JU Scientific Committee, Ethical Issues subcommittee of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicines, Director at Large for the World Stroke Association, former member of the Management Board of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and former patient editor of the British Medical Journal (BMJ). An Honorary Doctor from the University of Surrey, Mary received the prestigious British Neuroscience Association Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Neuroscience and for Public Service in 2009. In 2012 she was appointed Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics (LSE) Health Centre and Associate Membership of the Health Services Research Unit, University of Oxford.


Marlies DORLÖCHTER picture Marlies Dorlöchter is the head of the neuroscience unit at the Project Management Agency in the German Aerospace Center (PT-DLR) in Bonn. She is in charge of coordinating the implementation and management of national and international neuroscience/neurology/psychiatry funding measures of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). In this capacity, she coordinates the ERA-NET NEURON II, a network funded by the European Commission to allowing research groups to jointly work in the field of neuroscience. Marlies Dorlöchter studied zoology at the University of Münster and completed a PhD at the same university. She held different positions at University of Bonn, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, Shanghai Normal University, and University of Aachen between 1986 and 1999. She conducted her research to reveal some aspects of basic mechanisms of invertebrate phototransduction and transmitter release in neuromuscular junctions.

António DOURADO – University of Coimbra, PT

António DOURADO picture Professor António Dourado is a Researcher at the University of Coimbra, Department of Informatics Engineering, Portugal. He has been teaching courses on Systems Engineering, Automatic Control, Instrumentation, Fuzzy Systems, Neural Networks, Theory of Computation, General Management, to Engineering Students and MsC Students, in Informatics Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering. He has been involved in international (namely in EU FP7) and national projects (in collaboration with industry), including Networks of Excellence. He was the coordinator of the European project EPILEPSIAE- Evolving Platform for Improving the Living Expectations of Patients Suffering from Ictal Events, researching algorithms for EEG-ECG processing for epileptic seizures prediction. He is author or co-author of more than 200 international publications in referred journals, book chapters and conferences. He has been adviser of numerous MSc and PhD Students theses. He is member of IEEE (Computational Intelligence Society, Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, System Man and Cybernetic Society) and has been co-founder of European Control Association and Portuguese Association of Automatic Control (IFAC National Member). He has been member of numerous International Scientific Program Committees and has been reviewer of several Scientific International Journals. Main research interests: Computational Intelligence, Signal Processing, data mining for medical and industrial applications, and intelligent control.

Ruxandra DRAGHIA-AKLI – European Commission

Ruxandra DRAGHIA-AKLI picture Dr. Ruxandra Draghia-Akli D (MD, PhD) is Director of the Health Directorate at the Research and Innovation DG of the European Commission. Dr Draghia-Akli served as Vice-President of Research at VGX Pharmaceuticals (now Inovio) and VGX Animal Health. Her research activities focused on molecular biology, gene therapy and vaccination. She is a global leader in the field of nucleic acid delivery for therapeutic and vaccination applications. She is an inventor on more than a hundred patents and patent applications. Dr Draghia published numerous scientific papers and served as ad-hoc reviewer for granting agencies, meetings for gene therapy and endocrinology societies, and scientific journals in Europe and the USA. Dr Draghia received an MD from Carol Davilla Medical School and a PhD in human genetics from the Romanian Academy of Medical Sciences. She also completed a doctoral fellowship at the University of Rene Descartes in Paris and a post-doctoral training at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM), Houston, Texas, USA, and served as faculty at BCM. In 2012, she became an honorary member of the Romanian Academy of Medical Sciences.

Silvio GARATTINI – Mario Negri Institute, IT

Silvio GARATTINI picture Silvio Garattini earned his diploma in chemistry, then a degree in medicine and was appointed lecturer in chemotherapy and pharmacology. He continued his work as deputy professor at the Institute of Pharmacology of the University of Milan until 1962. He is the founder of the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research, he was its first director. He is a founder of the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC). Silvio Garattini is a Fellow of the New York Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians (Pharmaceutical Medicine) in London, Honorary Fellow of the Italian Society of Pharmacology and member of numerous other Italian and international scientific societies. In the last ten years he has acted in various national organizations, including the Committee on Biology and Medicine of the Italian National Research Council, the National Health Council, the Committee for Italian Research Policy and the " Commissione Unica del Farmaco " of the Ministry of Health. He has received many awards for his work, including the French Legion d'Honneur for scientific merit, and the Grand Ufficiale della Repubblica Italiana and holds honorary degrees from the Universities of Bialystok in Poland and Barcelona in Spain. In its 50 years, the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research has published more than 12000 scientific papers and more than 250 books, on topics ranging from cancer and its treatment to tumour immunology, neuropsychopharmacology and cardiovascular and renal pharmacology.

Máire GEOGHEGAN-QUINN – European Commission

Máire GEOGHEGAN-QUINN picture Máire Geoghegan-Quinn is Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science since 2010. Between 2000 and 2010, she served as a Member of the European Court of Auditors. From 1975 to 1997, she was a Member of the Irish parliament (Dáil Eireann). In 1979, she became the first woman to be appointed as a Cabinet Minister since the foundation of the Irish state, and served as Minister with responsibility for the Gaeltacht until 1981. She has held various other ministerial posts, including Minister for European Union Affairs from 1987 to 1991, when she oversaw the preparation of the Irish presidency of the European Union in 1990; Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications (1992-'93). She was the Irish Minister for Justice (1993-'94) and one of the negotiators of the Downing Street Declaration, which was signed between the Irish and British governments. From 1997 to 2000, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn served as Non-Executive Director of both Aer Lingus and the Ryan Hotel Group. She has been a TV presenter and a columnist in the Irish Times newspaper, and is a former Member of the Governing Authority of the National University of Ireland Galway.

Sean HILL – International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facility, SE

Sean HILL picture Sean Hill received his B.A. in Computational Neuroscience from Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. After a period spent working in the biotechnology industry, where he supervised a team of programmers working on distributed databases, he then returned to academia to study for a Ph.D. in Computational Neuroscience at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. Here he investigated the computational role of the auditory thalamocortical circuitry in the rat, research which involved multi-unit recordings and large-scale neuronal simulations. After receiving his Ph.D. degree, Sean Hill held postdoctoral positions at The Neurosciences Institute in La Jolla, California and the University of Wisconsin, Madison. During this time he developed the first large-scale model of the cat visual thalamocortical system that replicates neural activity during wakefulness and sleep.In 2006, Sean Hill was recruited by IBM to serve as the Project Manager for Computational Neuroscience in the Blue Brain Project, responsible for co- leading a team of 35 researchers dedicated to constructing a data-driven large-scale model of brain circuitry. In this capacity, he coordinated efforts to integrate gene expression, morphology and electrophysiology data into modeling, simulation, visualization and analysis workflows on a variety of high performance computing platforms. He has also supervised and led research efforts exploring the principles underlying the structure and dynamics of neocortical microcircuitry. Since January 2011, Sean Hill serves as the Executive Director of the International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facility in Stockholm, Sweden.

Christian KEYSERS – Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience, Amsterdam, NL

Christian KEYSERS  picture Professor Christian Keysers is French and German and was born in Belgium. He studied Biology and Psychology in Germany (University of Konstanz) and Boston (MIT, Harvard) and made his PhD in St Andrews with David Perrett on the neural basis of perceiving the faces of others. In 2000, he moved to Parma, Italy with a Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship where he worked with Giacomo Rizzolatti in the laboratory where mirror neurons were discovered. He contributed to the discovery of auditory mirror neurons in primates and showed that the idea of mirror neurons also applies to our emotions and sensations using fMRI in humans. He then moved to Groningen, the Netherlands, where he built up his own team with a Marie Curie Excellence Grant and became a full professor for the social brain in 2008. In 2010, he moved to Amsterdam to become the head of the Social Brain Lab at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience, a research institute of the Royal Dutch Academy of Arts and Sciences. His work tries to unravel how our brain allows us to empathize with others and understand their actions, emotions and sensations of others. He now hold an ERC consolidator grant to explore this question in humans and rodents. He is an associate editor of the journals Social Neuroscience and Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, on the editorial board of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. His work has been published in leading journals, including science, neuron, trends in cognitive sciences and current biology and has been cited over 4600 times (h=27). He is the author of the award winning book "The Empathic Brain" that explains how the science of mirror neurons has changed our understanding of human nature and psychiatric disorders.


Henri MARKRAM  picture Henry Markram is a professor of neuroscience at the Swiss Federal Institute for Technology (EPFL). He is the founder of the Brain Mind Institute, founder and director of the Blue Brain Project, and the coordinator of the Human Brain Project, one of two ten-year one billion Euro Flagship Projects recently approved by the European Commission. After earning his PhD at the Weizmann Institute of Science, with distinction, he was a Fulbright scholar at the National Institutes of Health, and a Minerva Fellow at the Max-Planck Institute for Medical Research. In 1995 he returned to the Weizmann Institute, becoming an Associate Professor in 2000. In 2002 he became a full professor at EPFL. Markram's research has focused on synaptic plasticity and the microcircuitry of the neocortex, in which he has discovered fundamental principles governing synaptic plasticity and the structural and functional organization of neural microcircuitry. Other key discoveries include the concept of Liquid Computing and the Intense World Theory of Autism. In 2005 he launched the Blue Brain Project to develop a data integration strategy for neuroscience. Markram has published more than one hundred papers and has one of the highest citation records in his area of research and stage of career. Since 2002, Markram has spearheaded Switzerland's ambition to become a world leader in high performance computing and to prioritize simulation-based research; these fields are now two of the three national research priorities declared by the Swiss government. Markram is also co-founder of Frontiers (, a new model for peer-reviewed open-access publishing.

Felipe MIRALLES – Barcelona Digital Technology Centre, ES

Felipe MIRALLES picture Felip Miralles, Head of R&D eHealth group at Barcelona Digital Technology Centre, is a Computer Science Engineer and holds a MSc. in Information Systems by the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT, USA). For more than 20 years, he led ICT projects and teams both in the public sector and the private enterprise, having been entrepreneur, and academic lecturer and researcher as well. He has been in charge of conception, fund raising, planning, coordination, leadership, research and development in many national and European R&D projects and is co-/author of many technical and scientific publications. He is currently coordinating the FP7 projects BrainAble, BackHome and Synergy-COPD and the AAL project SAAPHO, and his research interests span knowledge modelling and representation, multimodal interfaces, Brain Computer Interfaces, sensor networks, ambient intelligence, telemedicine, clinical decision support systems, and secure interoperable distributed architectures applied to innovative solutions for intelligent, predictive and personalized healthcare and assistance.

Richard G. MORRIS – University of Edinburgh, UK

Richard G. MORRIS picture Richard Morris is Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh and an Adjunct Professor of the Norwegian Technical University in Trondheim (NTNU). He graduated in Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge in 1969 and completed a D.Phil at the University of Sussex. He had time out of academic life in the 1970s helping to build the Human Biology Exhibition at the Natural History Museum in London and then working for the Science and Features Department of BBC Television (on "Tomorrow's World"). After this, he assumed a Lectureship in St Andrews before moving later to Edinburgh. During his career, he has been seconded to other activities, including the Foresight Office of the Department of Trade and Industry and, more recently, as Head of Neuroscience at the Wellcome Trust from 2007 to 2010. He has also been active in public awareness of science activities throughout his career, notably with the Dana Foundation. He is a member of the Council of the European Dana Alliance for the Brain. His principal research interest is the neurobiology of learning and memory. In 1986, he made the key observation that activation of NMDA receptors in the hippocampus is critical for memory encoding. Other contributions include the development of the open-field 'watermaze', now used worldwide, joint development (with Julie Frey) of the 'synaptic tagging and capture' hypothesis and, more recently, new paradigms to study paired-associate recall in animals and gene-activation associated with the encoding and assimilation of new information into mental schemas. He was elected to Fellowship of the Royal Society in 1997. He is also a Fellow of a number of other institutions, including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has won several awards, notably the Zotterman Medal of the Swedish Physiological Society in Stockholm (1999), the Feldberg Prize (2006) and the Fondation Ipsen Neuronal Plasticity Prize (2013), and has served as President of the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (2006-2008). He was awarded a CBE in 2007.

Aarno PALOTIE – Sanger Institute, UK

Aarno PALOTIE picture Professor Aarno Palotie is a member of the Human Genetics Faculty at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, the research director at the Finnish Institute for Molecular Medicine (FIMM) and a visiting faculty member at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. Aarno received his MD and PhD degrees at the University of Oulu, Finland and has a speciality in laboratory medicine. He has held professorships at the University of Helsinki and the University of California, Los Angeles. He has a long track record in genetic research of both rare and common diseases. He is the chair of the International Headache Genetics Consortium, the collaborative SISu-project (sequencing initiative of Finland) and co-chair of the neurodevelopmental arm of the UK10K project and the European Science Foundation Forward Look on Personalized Medicine. He has served in numerous national and international advisory boards and committees.

Norman SARTORIUS – former director of the WHO's Division of Mental Health, Geneva, CH

Norman SARTORIUS picture Norman Sartorius, MD, MA, DPM, PhD, FRCPsych, obtained his medical degree in Zagreb, Croatia. He specialized in neurology and psychiatry and subsequently obtained a PhD degree in psychology. He joined the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1967 and assumed charge of the programme of epidemiology and social psychiatry. He was the principal investigator of several major international studies on schizophrenia, on depression and on health service delivery and had responsibilities for WHO's work on the classification of mental and neurological disorders. In 1977, he became the first Director of the Division of Mental Health of WHO, a position which he held until mid-1993. Subsequently, he became president of the World Psychiatric Association and of the Association of European Psychiatrists. Currently, he is the President of the Association for the Improvement of Mental Health Programmes. Professor Sartorius holds honorary or visiting professorial appointments at several universities including the Universities of Beijing, London, Prague, St Louis and Zagreb. He published of more than 400 articles in peer reviewed scientific journals and several books. Professor Sartorius is a corresponding member of the Croatian Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the Spanish Royal Academy of Medicine and a honorary member of the Medical Academies of Croatia, Mexico and Peru. He holds honorary doctorates from the universities of Bath, Copenhagen, Prague and Umea and is a honorary fellow of a number of professional associations.

Martin E. SCHWAB – University of Zürich, CH

Martin E. SCHWAB picture Martin E. Schwab is full professor of Brain Research and Co-Director of the Brain Research Institute at the University of Zurich (since 1985) and full professor of Neurosciences at the ETH Zurich (since 1997). He is the founder of the Neuroscience Center Zurich (ZNZ) and the managing director of the National Center of Competence in Research (NCCR) "Neural Plasticity and Repair". Martin Schwab's expertise is in developmental neurobiology and mechanisms of repair of the brain and spinal cord. In 1985 he postulated the concept of "inhibitors of neurite growth" as a cause of the absent regeneration of injured fiber tracts in the central nervous system, which was a novel, anti-dogmatic hypothesis. Subsequently, he isolated one of the most potent nerve fiber growth inhibitors, Nogo-A. When this component was blocked, regeneration and functional repair could be shown for the first time in adult rats and monkeys after spinal cord injury. Cell biological studies on the mechanism of action of Nogo-A and its functional role in the developing and adult CNS are a focus of his current work, in parallel to studies on brain and spinal cord repair and a currently on-going clinical trial testing the effects of anti-Nogo-A antibodies in paraplegic patients (in collaboration with Novartis).

Robert-Jan SMITS – European Commission

 Robert-Jan SMITS picture Robert-Jan Smits is Director-General of DG Research and Innovation (RTD) at the European Commission. In this capacity he is responsible for defining and implementing the EU policy and programmes in the field of research and innovation (average annual budget 8 billion euro). His previous assignment was Deputy Director-General of DG JRC where he was responsible for Programmes and Stakeholder Relations, Resource Management, and three Institutes, being the Institute for Energy, the Institute for Environment and Sustainability and the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies. Before that Mr. Smits was Director for the European Research Area: Research Programmes and Capacity at DG RTD, where his responsibilities included: coordination of national research programmes, cooperation with intergovernmental research organisations (EIROforum, EUREKA, COST), Research Infrastructures, the relations with the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the Structural Funds. Mr. Smits is chairing several high-level committees such as European Research Area Committee (ERAC) and the Steering Committee of the ERC (ERCEA) Robert-Jan Smits was born in The Netherlands in 1958. He has degrees from Utrecht University in The Netherlands, Institut Universitaire d'Hautes Etudes Internationales in Switzerland and Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy in the United States of America.

Tine Bryan STENSBØL – - Lundbeck, DK

Tine Bryan Stensbøl picture Dr Tine Bryan Stensbøl is a Director at H. Lundbeck A/S. She graduated from The University of Pharmaceutical Sciences in Copenhagen in 1993, where she continued her PhD studies in Medicinal Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology within the glutamate field. After a post doc period at the University of Pharmaceutical Sciences, she started at Lundbeck in 2001 as a research scientist. Here she became a team member and later the project lead of one of Lundbecks discovery projects in depression successfully pushing 4 compounds into development 2 of which are now in phase 2 and 3 clinical trials. Tine now directs a biology-driven focus area at Lundbeck, namely Synaptic transmission Research and is a member of the Global Research Leadership Team responsible for the outlining as well as implementing Lundbecks research strategy. Further to this she is the coordinator of a public private partnership under the Innovative Medicines Initiatives (IMI) umbrella called NEWMEDS, focusing on addressing the major need for improved treatments for depression and schizophrenia and involves 23 partners comprising pharmaceutical companies, SMEs and leading academic institutions in Europe.