Henrik Green – Linköping University

New psychoactive substances (NPS) represent a significant health danger in Europe, due to their severe acute toxicities and adverse effects. They are an heterogenous group of substances that are either analogues of existing controlled drugs or newly synthetized chemicals, designed to replicate the pharmacological and psychoactive effects of illicit drugs. New analogues, for which we have very limited if any knowledge of their pharmacology and safety, emerge weekly on the illicit market. These drugs are also a suitable income for organized crime and drug dealers, who want to stay off the radar, since they are not scheduled as narcotics and can therefore be distributed without the police being able to intervene. The information that is often lacking to get these drugs scheduled and risk assessed is often the pharmacological profile of these drugs.

It is therefore a dire need for toxicological and pharmacological characterization of NPS drugs, to serve as a basis for a quick and adequate scheduling of the most dangerous compounds. Evidence-based information on the dangers of NPS are an absolute necessity, and correctly informing the public is paramount.

Anna Klawonn – University of Copenhagen

How does the immune-system influence our mood? Why are people with inflammatory conditions or neurodegenerative diseases much more prone to develop depression? These are some of the questions we are trying to answer in the hope to uncover better treatments and tools for early diagnosis of affective disorders and neurodegenerative disease. 
Our research evolves around deciphering the neural circuits and immune-to-brain signalling mechanisms involved in regulating affective state during disease. For this we are exploring the function of several brain circuits and neural populations and are specialized in striato-nigral and mesolimbic connectivity. We are particularly focused on exploring the mechanisms underlying major depressive disorder and Parkinson’s Disease.

Wen Zhong – Linköping University

The rise of high throughput molecular technologies has shed lights on the development of next-generation molecular diagnostics and biomarkers for patient stratifications in the precision medicine era. There is an urgent need to develop new systematic tools to combine multi-omics data and link genotype to phenotype to expand our knowledge of complex traits of human diseases. Our research group mainly focuses on the integration of multi-omics, the interplay between genetics and phenotypes, and the development of data-driven strategies/tools for precision medicine. The aim is to investigate the molecular biomarkers for the estimation of disease risks, early diagnosis of disease, stratification of drug treatment response, disease progression monitoring and the stratification of patients. To enable these projects, we develop and optimize trustworthy AI tools to facilitate the utilization of data-driven systems medicine and inform precision medicine-based decision support.

Colm Nestor – Linköping University

Men and women have almost identical immune systems but experience many immune diseases very differently. During the COVID-19 pandemic men were three times more likely to need intensive care than women of the same age. In contrast women are three times more likely than men to develop autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and lupus (SLE). Even some cancers of immune cells (T-cell leukemia) are much more common in young boys than in young girls.

While all cells in males have one X-chromosome and one Y chromosome, cells in females have two X chromosomes. To cope with having twice as many X-chromosome genes, all female cells turn off one of their X chromosomes. However, some genes on the so-called ‘inactive X-chromosome’ are not switched off (silenced), which means that women have a double dose of certain X-chromosome genes and many of these genes play a key role in immunity.

My group researches the amazing biology of the X-chromosome in women to understand if and how the X-chromosome causes different disease frequencies and outcomes become the sexes. We hope that our research will not only shed light on the role of the X chromosome in driving this difference but may also identify new ways to treat disease in a more effective and sex-specific manner.

Niklas Arnberg – Umeå University, Swedish virus and pandemic fund

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared seven public health emergencies of international concern over the last 14 years. All emergencies have been caused by viruses. Globalisation and climate change increase the risk for pathogen spill over to humans and it is expected that 4,000 zoonotic events will take place until 2070. Virus infections also constitute important causes of many acute and chronic diseases, but also cause or increase the risk for other public health diseases.  In addition to their impact on public health, virus-caused diseases also constitute a significant burden on health care. To address some of these challenges, The Swedish Society for Virology launched 2020 Virus- och pandemifonden (Pandemifonden), with the ambition to support research in the area of virology and to share knowledge about virus-caused diseases. I will discuss the impact of virus-caused diseases and the Pandemifonden initiative.