Scientific Program Overview

This year’s International Forum on Women’s Brain and Mental Health will be a virtual event hosted by the Women’s Brain Project (WBP) and broadcast from Zurich, Switzerland. The theme is – Sex and gender differences in brain and mental health: The Gateway to Precision Medicine – Across the Lifespan.

Over two days, the program will take attendees – including experts from academia, pharma, regulatory bodies as well as funding bodies, caregivers, and patients – on a journey.

On the first day, we will explore the issues, relevant sex differences, and what needs to be done. Three panels will examine self-destructive behavior in teenagers, maternal mental health challenges, and age-related pathologies such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Day two will focus on the way forward. Migraine will be taken as a case study for implementing policy changes. We will look at prevention with a focus on lifestyle changes or interventions that can have a positive impact on brain and mental health. Third, we will explore the potential for technology, with a particular emphasis on apps and startups, to offer solutions.

For each panel, experts will look at outstanding issues and challenges, keeping in mind two key questions:

  • What are relevant sex differences?
  • What would need to be done?

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Note: The list of speakers below is not exhaustive, but merely serves to give a sense of the line-up.


19th September

Dr. Lukas Engelberger – Health Councilor city of Basel, Switzerland

PANEL 1 – Suicide in adolescents and young adults from a sex and gender perspective

There is a worrying increase in the rate of mental health conditions – from depression to eating disorders and suicide – amongst adolescents, especially girls; the reasons are not known.

Confirmed Speakers

  • Ms Kathryn Goetzke – iFred founder, USA (see her profile here)
  • Prof. Maurizio Pompili – Full Professor and Chair of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine and Psychology, ITALY (see his profile here)
  • Ms Sarah Skelton – Head of Programme Development at PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide, UK
  • Mr Tony Harrison – Trustee at PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide, UK
  • Ms Hannah Laird – Speaker, CANADA
  • Ms Amini Malekeh – Founder & CEO of Trayt, USA

PANEL 2 – Maternal mental health: challenges for better treatment

Due to lack of registries, doctors often lack the data to guide a therapeutic decision to treat brain or mental conditions during pregnancy. This results in insufficient treatment of pre-existing mental conditions in the mothers, or in devastating effects on the offspring, as well as difficulties in addressing new issues such as postpartum depression.

Confirmed Speakers

  • Ms Franka Cadee – President of the International Confederation of Midwives, NETHERLANDS (see her profile here)
  • Dr Neerja Chowdhary – Department of Mental Health and Substance Use World Health Organization (WHO), SWITZERLAND
  • Dr Louise Howard – Professor in Women’s Mental Health, King’s College London (see her profile here)
  • Dr Jennifer Payne – Director, Women’s Mood Disorders Center, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, USA (see her profile here)
  • Dr Francesca Baracchi – Clinical Psychologist, specialized in maternal mental health, SWITZERLAND
  • Ms Clare O’Dea – Journalist
  • Prof. Sergio Pecorelli – Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Brescia, ITALY

PANEL 3 – Sex and gender differences in dementia & Alzheimer’s

A growing body of evidence indicates significant sex and gender differences in Alzheimer’s diagnosis and progression, as well as other conditions such as stroke and Parkinson. With the advent of new therapeutics for Alzheimer’s, the issue of how to integrate each difference into clinical trials has to be addressed.

Confirmed Speakers

  • Dr Ivana Rubino – Vice President, Global and US Alzheimer’s Disease Medical at Biogen, USA
  • Dr Frances-Catherine Quevenco – International Medical Affairs Associate, Roche Diagnostics, SWITZERLAND
  • Dr Lynn Hughes – Former IQVIA, UK
  • Dr Vasisht Kaveeta – Associate Commissioner for Women’s Health at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), USA
  • Dr Elena Moro – Director of the Movement Disorders Unit, CHU Grenoble, University Grenoble-Alpes, Grenoble; Board Member EAN
  • Ms Sofia Petersson – Patient diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s and WBP Ambassador (see blogs about her journey here)
  • Ms Paola Barbarino – CEO of ADI (Alzheimer Disease International), UK
  • Ms Raj Long – Regulatory Development & Access Strategy Expert; Deputy Director, Integrated Development– Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, London, UK


20th September

Dr Eliot Sorel – Chair, Access to Care Committee, American Psychiatric Association

PANEL 4 – The ideal migraine patient experience both in life and at work: policy changes to achieve it

Taking Migraine as a specific example, the question of what kinds of policies could support migraineurs and how they could be adopted will be explored, alongside challenges and if and how to reflect sex and gender differences into such policies.

Confirmed Speakers

  • Mr Frédéric Destrebecq – Executive Director for the European Brain Council, BELGIUM (see his profile here)
  • Dr Patricia Pozo Rosich – MD PhD, Headache and Craniofacial Pain Clinical Unit at the University Hospital Vall d’Hebron in Barcelona, SPAIN
  • Dr David Roomes – Chief Medical Officer, Rolls Royce, UK
  • Ms Elena Ruiz de la Torre – EMHA Executive Director, SPAIN
  • Prof Cristina Tassorelli – MD, PhD, Dept of Brain and Behavioral Sciences, University of Pavia, IRCCS Mondino Foundation, ITALY

PANEL 5 – Lifestyle changes that can have a positive impact on brain and mental health–a sex and gender perspective

It is becoming increasingly clear that lifestyle (nutrition, sleep) can affect brain health; in the future, personalized nutrition, also considering sex, will be needed.

Confirmed Speakers

  • Dr Anna Erat – Medical Director of Check-Up Center Hirslanden and Hirslanden International Medical Center, SWITZERLAND
  • Dr Neerja Chowdhary – Technical Officer, Brain Health Unit – Department of Mental Health and Substance Use World Health Organization (WHO), Switzerland
  • Ms Meryl Comer – Chair, Global Alliance on Women’s Brain Health/Co-Founder UsA2, USA
  • Dr Sabina Brennan – PhD., C.Psychol.,PsSI., IRELAND
  • Prof Alexandra Kautzky-Willer – Head of the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism of the General Hospital and Medical University of Vienna, AUSTRIA
  • Dr Lisa Mosconi – Director, The Weill Cornell Women’s Brain Initiative, USA

PANEL 6 – Beyond traditional approaches: novel digital products for brain and mental health

Several Apps have now received FDA approval to support the treatment of mental health conditions. This revolutionary approach might be particularly relevant for teenagers. However, the use and efficacy of such Apps might depend on sex and gender factors, which has never yet been explored.

Confirmed Speakers

  • Rickard Forsman – CEO, Geras Solutions
  • Dr Sonali Quantius – Founder of HAPLOMIND, SWITZERLAND
  • Dr Andy Bushell – Co-President OoNiDa, SWITZERLAND
  • Dr Robbert Harms – Scientific Data Analyst, Altoida, GERMANY
  • Mr Priyal Sheth – Neuroscientist / VP of Business Development, nQ Medical Inc, USA
  • Ms Richelle Flanagan– Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist, B.A. (Physiology), MSc Nutrition & Dietetics, PgCert Allergy, MINDI, UK
  • Mr Hassan Jaroudi – Advisory Board Member, Cognomie, UK
  • Dr Victoria Siegrist – Global Patient Partnership Director Roche, SWITZERLAND


Special lectures will be offered by:

  • Dr Myoung-Ock Ahn – PhD, DrPH, MPH, Former President & CEO of National Medical Center of Korea, Professor of Medical School and Graduate School of Health and Welfare, CHA University
  • Ms Mara Hank Moret – WBP Honorary President
  • Ms Carolee Lee – Founder/CEO, Access Circles / WHAM! (Women Health Access Matters) (see her profile here)
  • Ms Katherine Price Snedaker – Executive Director & Founder of Pink Concussions, USA
  • Prof. Londa Schiebinger – John L. Hinds Professor of History of Science at Stanford University, USA
  • Mr Tor Svensson – Chairman and Columnist,
  • Mr George Vradenburg – World Dementia Council Member, Co-Convener of CEOi
    Chairman and Co-Founder USAgainstAlzheimer’s, USA
  • Dr Ursula Amstutz – Research Ggroup Lader at the Institute of Clinical Chemistry & Deputy Head of the Clinical Genomics Lab at the Inselspital Bern University Hospital in Bern, SWITZERLAND
  • Ms Signe Ratso – Deputy Director-General for Research and Innovation, DG RTD
  • Ms Fagun Thakrar – Director/Producer/Actress, UK
  • Ms Veronica De Vore – Head of English Department, SwissInfo, SWITERLAND