2017 Cohen Veterans Care Summit Highlights

The inaugural Cohen Veterans Care Summit focused on advancements in bioscience and precision medicine to advance the PTSD & TBI research roadmap through public-private partnerships.
World-class brain health experts and leaders from across government, academia, industry and non-profit organizations shared the latest developments in biomarkers, diagnostics, translational models, genetics, biosensors and mobile health for PTSD and TBI.

The Summit was jointly hosted by Cohen Veterans Bioscience and Cohen Veterans Network, both leading national non-profit organizations funded by financier-philanthropist Steven A. Cohen to advance the state of Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) & Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) care today and tomorrow.

This year’s inaugural meeting focused on advancements in bioscience and precision medicine, including opportunities for advancing the PTSD & TBI research roadmap through public-private partnerships.

Participants in this invitation-only event included leaders from academia, Department of Defense, National Institutes of Health, Veterans Administration, foundations and industry.

By Joining Forces with partners from all sectors, we can accelerate the Veterans Mental Health agenda for Veterans, Service members and all individuals affected by PTS & TBI.

Opening Remarks by Magali Haas, MD, PhD, at the 2016 Cohen Veterans Care Summit

Highlights from the Cohen Veterans Care Summit

  • Financier-Philanthropist Steven A. Cohen and Cohen Veterans Bioscience President & CEO Dr. Magali Haas welcomed attendees with calls to advance the PTSD and TBI research agenda in the face of an invisible epidemic, noting that more than a million service members and veterans, and more than 9 million civilians, have been diagnosed with these conditions. Mr. Cohen has committed more than $300 million to support Cohen Veterans Network and Cohen Veterans Bioscience.
  • VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. David Shulkin, FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, and Jonathan Woodson, Faculty Director of the Institute for Health System Innovation at Boston University, emphasized the necessity for collaboration and innovation. Dr. Shulkin reported strides in suicide prevention, improved access to mental health care, and recent adoption of innovative solutions to treating veterans at the VA. Dr. Califf emphasized the importance of developing biomarkers for PTSD and TBI so that we can measure the benefits from treatments, and predicted that technological advancements like wearable biosensors will soon lead to exciting new diagnostic devices. Dr. Woodson highlighted the need to institute smart policies in parallel with advancing medical research.
  • As a combat veteran who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, Garret Combs shared his own experience of PTSD and delivered an unexpected message: “Don’t thank me for my service,” he said, because putting vets on a pedestal only intensifies feelings of difference, isolation and an inability to relate to one’s community.
  • Cohen Veterans Network President and CEO Dr. Anthony Hassan reported overwhelming demand for services at the five clinics the organization has opened so far, and projected that eventually there would be 20 or more sites around the US. CVN provides mental health care to veterans and their families at no charge, regardless of discharge status.
  • A wide-reaching federal plan to improve access to mental health services for veterans, service members, and military families is moving forward. The National Research Action Plan (NRAP), established in 2013, is building collaborations to standardize, integrate, and share data as appropriate, build new tools and technologies, and work to maximize the impact of research findings.
  • PTSD goes back 3,000 years, said Dr. Charles Marmar of New York University. The earliest PTSD-like case in medical history was a Syrian soldier who lived in 1300 B.C. Similar conditions have been recognized repeatedly over the centuries, usually after a war and called by names like “soldier’s heart,” “battle fatigue,” and “shell shock.” But the symptoms have remained consistent — nightmares, memory problems, insomnia, withdrawal.
  • Women’s higher rate of PTSD may be due in part to sex-related differences in how their brains respond to trauma, said Dr. Eric Kandel, Nobel Laureate and professor at Columbia University. In a mouse model of conditioned fear, female — but not male — mice without the TIA-1 gene exhibit stress-induced PTSD-like phenotypes. In contrast, increasing TIA-1 aggregation enhances its protective function, leading to a reduction in fear-related behaviors.

     

  • We understand cancer much better than neurodegeneration because we know why cells proliferate, but we really don’t know why they die. To make progress in TBI and related diseases, said Dr. Kenneth Kosik of UC Santa Barbara, we need to better understand how misfolded versions of proteins like tau, which is involved in TBI, escape cellular degradation.
  • Wearable devices will soon provide medical-grade data for research and treatment of PTSD and other conditions. Ruben de Francisco of the nanoelectronic research institute Imec demonstrated an electrode-studded cap, wristband, and skin patch that can collect data on heart and brain activity, skin conductance, physical activity and other factors.
  • Fear is a natural response — and one critical for the survival of an organism. PTSD is thought to arise from changes in how the brain processes fear and fear-related behaviors. A number of models have been developed to explore neural circuits that underlie PTSD symptoms. Dr. Israel Liberzon of the University of Michigan argued that the brain’s capacity to put fears in context — its ability to react differently to a lion in the zoo and a lion in your backyard — is key to understanding PTSD.
  • Numbers are key to identifying genes associated with neuropsychiatric conditions. Early efforts by the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGC) to identify genetic risk factors underlying schizophrenia failed for one simple reason, said Dr. Karestan Koenen of the Harvard School of Public Health — sample size. It took 9,000 patients to find a genetic variant in the MHC gene that contributes to increased schizophrenia risk. In PTSD, a partnership between Cohen Veterans Bioscience and PGC expects to have 25,000 cases analyzed by the end of 2016.
  • Veterans aren’t getting the care they deserve, despite the tireless efforts of advocates, Cohen Veterans Bioscience Board Secretary Theresa Frangiosa said in opening day two of the Summit. One way to move forward, said Board Member Michael Sullivan, is through coordination between Cohen Veterans Bioscience and Cohen Veterans Network that realizes financier-philanthropist Steven A. Cohen’s vision of translating groundbreaking research to the clinic.
  • Admiral Brian Losey emphasized the importance of continuous care and monitoring of military personnel over their careers. The idea is not just to prevent or treat PTSD in individuals – but to enhance, measure and reinforce institutional resiliency. Like any combat injury, PTSD compromises talented service members’ capacity to move up through the ranks and shape the future of the armed forces.
  • care-summit-day-2-5

    Cohen Veterans Bioscience
    President & CEO Dr. Magali Haas

    The tough question she asked herself when starting Cohen Veterans Bioscience, Dr. Magali Haas reported, was “What can this organization bring to the table when billions of dollars are necessary to bring a single CNS drug to market?” Today, the resounding answer is that a patient-driven, nimble and flexible organization adds tremendous value. Embracing the core principles of imagination, integration and acceleration, Cohen Veterans Bioscience is positioned to investigate the biomarker landscape, improve the validity of animal models and harness the complexity of big data using computational modeling methods.

  • Pulling useful insights about PTSD from all the relevant scientific knowledge is like trying to book a flight using an unabridged map of the North American flight network, said David King, founder of Exaptive, Inc. His company is working on a PTSD KnowledgeMap™ that helps researchers see meaningful connections between data points much the way online travel sites help people find a flight.
  • care-summit-day-2-pkPromising results in preclinical studies often fail in human testing due to the lack of validity in animal models. Our AMP IT UP initiative is trying to bridge that gap by developing preclinical models that more accurately reflect PTSD. However, as Dr. Kerry Ressler of Harvard Medical School points out, the goal is not to make a “PTSD mouse” but to model relevant processes that are known to occur in both species.
  • There are over 630,000 ways to reach a PTSD diagnosis using the DSM-V. But this complexity does have a silver lining, said Dr. Amit Etkin of Stanford University. It gives us the opportunity to rethink how we define this disease. He presented research showing there is a subset of PTSD patients who tend not to benefit from prolonged exposure therapy. But data from various sources raises the possibility that transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) might cause shifts in brain activity that could improve their response to that approach. He is working on the BEST-PTSD (Biomarker Establishment for Superior Treatment in PTSD) program – a new partnership with Cohen Veterans Bioscience – to help explore which patients will benefit from treatment in the real world.
  • Treatments like the TMS-psychotherapy combination that Dr. Etkin described will be challenging to develop. Several speakers noted that it is difficult enough to test drugs in preclinical animal models. Determining the effectiveness of multimodal therapies in ways that can be reliably translated to humans will be even more challenging, said Dr. Larry Hardy of Sunovion Pharmaceuticals.
  • Like Alzheimer’s Disease, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a tauopathy, one of many conditions that involves the accumulation of tau protein in the brain. Tau is currently sampled from cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) or blood plasma, said Dr. Mony de Leon of New York University. However, there may be a better way: recent research shows that CSF leaks out of the brain’s olfactory bulb into the deep recesses of the nose.
  • Only 26 studies of PTSD have been published in the last 60 years that use post-mortem tissue, compared with 4,500 studies of Alzheimer’s Disease. The Cohen Brain Collection – a collaboration between Cohen Veterans Bioscience and the Harvard Brain Tissue Research Center – aims to fill that gap by collecting high-quality brain specimens. To truly understand PTSD, said HBTRC co-director Dr. Sabina Berretta, we must look closely at the human brain – and post-mortem tissue is our only way of accessing this critical organ. As Dr. Berretta concluded, “The gift of a brain is a gift of knowledge.”

Day One – Igniting the Spark

Day One – Stakeholder Sessions

Day One – Summit Dinner

Day Two – Stakeholder Sessions

2016 Cohen Veterans Care Summit Press Room

Media Advisory

Summit to Address Veterans PTSD-TBI Research and Care 

More than 200 thought leaders representing academia, government agencies, the military, industry, and the nonprofit sector will gather on September 22nd and 23rd in Washington, DC to discuss the state of science and care delivery in PTSD and TBI and to map a path to a first generation of diagnostics, therapeutics, and cures. 

World-class brain health experts will share the latest research on biomarkers, diagnostics, translational models, genetics, biosensors, and mobile health (including wearable technologies) for PTSD and TBI. Speakers include representatives from the National Institutes of Health, FDA, VA, Department of Defense, U.S. Army, and leading academic institutions — including Columbia, Stanford, Harvard, and NYU. Navy Seals and veterans who have experienced PTSD will also be participating. 

It is a critical time for addressing the vast mental health needs of our nation’s veterans. An estimated 20 veterans per day are committing suicide and many more are living for a lifetime with the invisible wounds of war. What is missing from the national discussion of caring for veterans — and all who suffer from PTSD and TBI, which often co-exists with PTSD — is the need for scientific research on its biological mechanisms and that of related conditions. This will lead to the faster development of objective diagnostic tests and more effective treatments. 

The Cohen Veterans Care Summit is co-hosted by Cohen Veterans Bioscience and Cohen Veterans Network.

Please join us for this premier event. [Registration is required]

WHAT:

Cohen Veterans Care Summit

Joining Forces on the Road to Discovery:
Advancing the PTSD Research Agenda

WHERE:

Ronald Reagan Building
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC

WHEN:

September 22nd and 23rd, 2016
(Welcoming remarks begin at 8:00 am)

CONTACT:

press@cohenbio.org

For more information about the program and speakers, please visit http://www.cohencaresummit.org. Follow #CohenCareSummit on twitter.

The event will also be live streamed online at CohenCareSummit.org.

About the Cohen Veterans Care Summit

The Summit is jointly hosted by Cohen Veterans Bioscience and Cohen Veterans Network, both leading national non-profit organizations funded by billionaire philanthropist, Steven A. Cohen to advance the state of Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) & Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) care today and tomorrow.

This year’s inaugural meeting will focus on advancements in bioscience and precision medicine and will highlight opportunities for advancing the PTSD & TBI research roadmap through public-private partnerships.  World-class brain health experts will share the state-of-the-art in biomarkers, diagnostics, translational models, genetics, biosensors and mobile health for PTSD and TBI.  We will also discuss how research advancements can be rapidly translated to best-in-class care delivery.

Participants in this invitation-only event will include leaders from academia, Department of Defense, National Institutes of Health, Veterans Administration, foundations and industry.  The agenda includes panel discussions, scientific presentations, and plenty of time for networking with peers to promote innovative collaborations.

By Joining Forces with partners from all sectors, we can accelerate the Veterans Mental Health agenda for Veterans, Service members and all individuals affected by PTS & TBI.

Cohen Veterans Bioscience

Cohen Veterans Bioscience

Cohen Veterans Bioscience is the only 501(c)(3) non-profit research organization with a singular focus on PTSD and TBI research. We are dedicated to fast-tracking the development of diagnostic tests and personalized therapeutics for the millions of veterans and civilians who suffer the devastating effects of trauma on the brain. More information is available at www.cohenveteransbioscience.org

Cohen Veterans Network

Cohen Veterans Network

Cohen Veterans Network is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation whose mission is to improve the quality of life for post-9/11 veterans and their families by focusing on improving mental health outcomes. The goal of the Cohen Veterans Network is to build a network of free or low-cost outpatient mental health clinics for veterans and their families in high-need communities, in which trained clinicians deliver holistic evidence-based care to treat mental health conditions, especially post-traumatic stress.

Cohen Veterans Care Summit