Gerome Breen
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Personal profile

Research interests (short)

I am a psychiatric geneticist who works on the genetics of affective (mood) disorders, psychosis and eating disorders. One of the most important goals for my research is to discover the biological basis of common psychiatric disorders, which will allow better drug discovery and biomarker studies in mental health. Not only that but they can also be used to improve estimations of response to psychological treatments and to help improve clinical trial approaches. Because someone’s DNA sequence does not change after diagnosis or treatment, genetics is often the best approach for this.

I am heavily involved in a number of international genetic consortia which are driving the field of psychiatric genetics forward at a faster pace than ever before, with more than 500 variants for common psychiatric disorders recently discovered.

We have just launched the Eating Disorders Genetic Initiative. This is a project which aims to recruit 10,000 people in England who have experienced an eating disorder who fill in a detailed online questionnaire and who give a saliva sample for genetic analyses. EDGI has the ambitious goal of creating the world's largest re-contactable group of people with experience of an eating disorder, and who also have detailed clinical and genetic information. We want to speed up research in eating disorders to help find their causes and to identify the best treatments.

I am also currently running The Genetic Links to Anxiety and Depression or GLAD study with my close collaborator Prof Thalia Eley. You can hear us talking about the study here, and can watch an animation about the study here

Biographical details

I lead the NIHR Maudsley BioResource centre, part of the NIHR BioResource and the KCL Maudsley BRC. A BioResource is a biobank - a repository of biological samples for medical research - whose participants can be contacted to take part in studies, and whose samples can be used to study the molecular basis of psychiatric and neurological disorders.  I am currently running The Genetic Links to Anxiety and Depression or GLAD study with my close collaborator Prof Thalia Eley. You can hear us talking about the study here, and can watch an animation about the study here. I lead the NIHR Mental Health BioResource, of which GLAD is the first study and EDGI the second, and which has the overall aim to recruit >100,000 participants in the next 5 years.

Within one of these consortia - the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGC) - I have done substantial work on major depressive disorder. We are now finally finding dozens of genetic variants related to this disorder, thanks to a massive increase in sample size - we're now working with datasets exceeding >1,000,000 individuals. I also chair (with my close collaborator Cindy Bulik) the PGC Anorexia and Eating Disorders group, where we are beginning to find genetic hits for Anorexia nervosa, the most lethal psychiatric disorder.

Another of my main research interests is uncovering biological pathways using large scale genetic data, work which I undertake with the PGC Network and Pathway Analysis group where we aim not only to find biological mechanisms from genetic data but also to identify potential drug targets and drug repositioning opportunities. I organise the annual PGC Industry meeting "Pathways to Drugs", aiming to stimulate discussion between geneticists and the pharma and biotech industries to stimulate renewed drug discovery efforts in psychiatry.

 

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

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