2022 Gill Symposium to explore current research on cannabis

BLOOMINGTON – The 2022 symposium of the Linda and Jack Gill Center for Biomolecular Science at Indiana University will focus on cannabis research. The annual symposium will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 14 in the Indiana Memorial Union’s Whittenberger Auditorium at IU Bloomington. Attendance is free, but registration is required by Sept. 12.

IU Bloomington scientists are among the world-leaders in cannabinoid research. Photo by Getty Images

The Gill Center was established in 1999 to advance the understanding of complex biological processes and train the next generation of scientists. Each year, the center organizes a symposium on a topic of current interest or controversy in the field of neuroscience.

Cannabis, or marijuana, has been consumed for millennia — both for recreational and therapeutic purposes. Over the past 30 years, researchers have developed an understanding of how the effects of cannabis components, such as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), can be both beneficial and detrimental.

The focus of this year’s symposium on cannabis is particularly apt as the Gill Center and IU Bloomington are among the world-leaders in cannabinoid research, with over a dozen research groups and more than 100 staff and students studying aspects of cannabis and cannabinoids.

The symposium will recognize five researchers who have done fundamental work to advance scientific understanding of potential therapeutic benefits, as well as potential harms, of cannabis-derived compounds such as CBD and THC. Each awardee will present a talk on their area of research expertise.

The five awardees are:

  • Francisco Guimarães of the School of Medicine of Ribeirão Preto, University of São Paulo, Brazil, is best known for his pioneering work on the anxiolytic properties of CBD in both preclinical and clinical settings. In addition, his mechanistic studies on the anxiolytic effects of CBD have revealed interactions between this molecule and serotonin pathways in the brain
  • Elizabeth Thiele of Harvard Medical School is a pediatric neurologist doing fundamental work in advancing our understanding of and developing treatments for severe pediatric epilepsies. In particular, she has led several pivotal clinical trials that have established CBD as an effective treatment for treating certain types of seizure disorders.
  • Matthew Hill of the University of Calgary, Canada, is recognized for his work to determine the role of endogenous cannabinoids in the regulation of our response to stress. The results of his work show that endogenous cannabinoids play a role in the resolution of stress and that chronic stress disrupts this process, increasing the risk of depression and anxiety disorders.  
  • Miriam Melis of the University of Cagliari, Italy, examines interactions between the endogenous cannabinoid and the mesolimbic dopamine systems. This work has advanced both our understanding of the relationship between cannabis use and abused drugs and how prenatal cannabis influences an offspring’s susceptibility to drug addiction.
  • Yasmin Hurd of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai uses multidisciplinary research to investigates the neurobiology underlying addiction disorders and related neuropsychiatric illnesses. Hurd has made major contributions to our understanding of the impact of abused drugs on brain development as well as conducting human trials to develop novel therapies to treat opioid use disorder.

Two other awards will also be presented at this year’s symposium: One for an outstanding neuroscience image and a second for an outstanding graduate student thesis.

A poster session and reception will follow the symposium from 5 to 7 p.m. in the IMU Solarium. A full schedule for the symposium will be available online.

For more information about the 2022 Gill Symposium, contact Shawn Hannon at smhannon@iu.edu.