The Swedish FTD Initiative symposium 2019
Spring was just around the corner when Swedish FTD Initiative, founded by the Schörling Foundation, hosted the Swedish FTD Initiative symposium 2019 at the beginning of March. The symposium is the first of its kind in Sweden, dedicated to disseminate research in the area of Frontotemporal dementia and to bring about discussions of future multidisciplinary collaborations. The common goal for everyone involved was clear- to improve FTD diagnostics and to work towards an effective treatment against the disease.
The grand venue itself, Aula Medica, together with the meticulous planning by the organizers to keep the day smooth and up to quality, speak of the palpable ambition to shed light on the high importance of the topic. Delegates and speakers are represented by no less than six categories; researchers, clinicians, healthcare professionals, caregivers, patients and their families, and support organizations. Researchers and healthcare professionals from six countries (SWE, FIN, NO, ISL, USA and UK) have gathered to share and discuss ongoing projects and research findings. Lunch and coffee breaks with good quality refreshments are distributed well throughout the day, opening up for easy conversation and networking.
The program of the day is well thought through and emphasises the importance of moving forward together in a multidisciplinary fashion. A multidisciplinary approach applies not only to research but to the equally important clinical part regarding the clinical work-up and diagnosis. Discussions are brought forward by the moderator Paul Hudson, who is very keen on pushing the vital questions of how, why, and when?
Märta Schörling Andreen and Sofia Schörling Högberg start the day by giving a very touching opening presentation, not only speaking as the founders of the Schörling Foundation but also as the daughters of a beloved father slipping away. The four research leaders of the Swedish FTD Initiative (C Graff, L-O Wahlund, P Nilsson and S Ståhl) follow the opening presentation by presenting their research, showing the strength of intertwining expertise from multiple areas such as clinical genetics, brain imaging, proteomics and future treatment strategies. Experts from Lund, Gothenburg, Tønsberg (NO) and Kuopio (FIN) add to the multidisciplinary theme, and each block is rounded off with informative three minute presentations by young and senior researchers from a variety of universities and pharmaceutical companies.
Dr Jonathan Rohrer from University College London UK gives an inspirational keynote lecture on how to initiate and manage large multicentre consortiums such as the GENetic Frontotemporal dementia Initiative (GENFI). The second keynote speaker, Dr Jennifer Whitwell from Mayo Clinic Rochester USA, explains and challenges the currently accepted classification of primary progressive aphasia.
The panel discussion at the end of the scientific program once again highlights the benefits of working across disciplines and research groups. There is a clear ambition to unite researchers from different scientific fields and to promote an increased transparency of e.g. datasets. From the clinical point of view there is a national need for harmonization of the clinical work-up and diagnosis of FTD. Combining these efforts will in time lead to a greater understanding of the disease, bigger leaps towards improved diagnostics and treatments and, ultimately, improved quality of life for both patients and caregivers.
When listening closely during the breaks one can hear several ongoing discussions in more than a few of the topics being presented throughout the day. There is a feeling of unity at today´s meeting, and two follow-up meetings in the near future are already planned for. This brings hope for what is to come within the next few years regarding advancements in FTD research and clinical diagnostics.