Darwin Lecture 2019–The Genetics of Schizophrenia: Darwin, Linnaeus and Precision Psychiatry

Royal Society of Medicine, 1 Wimpole Street, London, W1G 0AE, United Kingdom
Organiser: https://www.rsm.ac.uk/events/public-engagement/2019-20/pen02/

EVENING LECTURE 18:00–19:00 Wednesday 20 November 2019

In association with the Royal Society of Medicine.


Schizophrenia is a severe and frequently disabling psychiatric condition that is highly heritable. Recent genomic studies have begun to reveal its complex genetic architecture and identify specific risk alleles across the frequency spectrum. In this lecture Prof Michael Owen will review these findings and show how they are beginning to solve the evolutionary puzzle of how a heritable disorder that is associated with quite markedly reduced reproductive success is maintained in the population. He will also indicate how genomic findings challenge current diagnostic systems and taxonomy. Finally, he will review how these recent findings are illuminating our understanding of potential disease biology and suggest ways in which genomic discoveries may impact on the practice of psychiatry.

Mike Owen

Prof Mike Owen is director of the Medical Research Council’s Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics, and head of the Division of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences at Cardiff University. His research has focused on the genetics of major psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders and he has made notable contributions to the study of schizophrenia and Alzheimer disease. He has studied the impact of genetic risk factors across diagnostic boundaries and proposed a framework to understand the relationship between different neurodevelopmental disorders. He has also identified specific genes and sets of proteins involved in the pathogenesis of schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease, which are potential therapeutic targets.

As well as continuing his work on psychiatric genetics, he is currently undertaking research aimed at translating recent genetic findings into a greater understanding of disease mechanisms using a variety of neuroscience and epidemiological approaches. He was awarded the Stromgren Medal for psychiatric research in 2011, the Lieber Prize for schizophrenia research in 2012, the William K Warren Distinguished Investigator Award for schizophrenia research in 2013, the Lifetime Achievement Award of International Society of Psychiatric Genetics in 2015, and the British Neuroscience Association Award for Outstanding Contribution to Neuroscience in 2017. Until recently he worked as a Consultant in General Adult Psychiatry and he was knighted for services to psychiatry and neuroscience in 2014.