Jehannine Austin

Canada Research Chair in Translational Psychiatric Genomics
Programs: Mood & Anxiety Disorders, Schizophrenia


Contact info

CFRI Translational Lab Building A3-112-3rd floor
938 W 28th Ave
Vancouver, BC, V5Z 4H4
work phone: 6048752000 ext:5943

Professional Affiliations and other Positions

Brain Research Centre, Centre Investigator
UBC Genetic Counseling Training Program, Graduate Advisor
BC Mental Health and Addictions Research Institute, Research Scientist

Research and Interests

Psychiatric disorders (e.g. depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder) are common conditions that are associated with extreme emotional burden, both for affected individuals and their families. Psychiatric disorders are complex conditions that arise as a result of combinations of genetic and environmental vulnerability factors. The genetics of psychiatric disorders is especially complex, so our understanding has been slow in coming despite application of state-of-the-art tools and a large number of studies over many years. Although both molecular genetic research in psychiatry and clinical applications of genetics in many other medical disciplines are well established, research involving clinical applications of genetics in psychiatric conditions is still emerging. However, progress is now being made, and there is an urgent need to translate this into benefit for individuals with psychiatric disorders and their families.

The overall objective of my program of research is to use a clinical genetics perspective to inform the development of novel biological and non-biological interventions to improve outcomes for individuals with psychiatric disorders and to support their families.

I am particularly interested in:
• Improving outcomes for people with mental illness and their families by helping them to better understand the causes of mental illness.
• Contributing to a better understanding of factors that contribute to the development of postpartum depression, and developing new nutritional interventions to reduce women’s risk for postpartum depression
• Modifying healthcare professionals attitudes towards individuals with mental illness.

Program Pages: Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program  and  Schizophrenia



Jehannine completed her BSc (Hons, Biochemistry) at Bath University, and her PhD in Neuropsychiatric Genetics at the University of Wales College of Medicine in the UK before completing training as a Genetic Counselor at UBC in 2003. She was first appointed as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry in 2007, and in the Department of Medical Genetics in 2008, and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2012. She holds/has held multiple external salary awards including a CIHR New Investigator Award, a Michael Smith Career Investigator Award, and a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair, and received CIHR’s 2007 Maud Menten New Investigator Award. She is co-author of the book “How to talk with families about genetics and psychiatric illness” (W.W Norton, 2011), Graduate Advisor to the UBC Genetic Counseling program, and a Board Certified Genetic Counselor.


Selected Publications

Peay and Austin. How to talk with families about genetics and psychiatric illness. W.W. Norton. 2011.

Austin J, and Honer W. Potential impact of genetic counselling for mental illness. Clinical Genetics.2005 67 (2) p134-142.

Austin, J. Schizophrenia: An update and review. Journal of Genetic Counselling. 2005 14(5) p. 329- 340.

Austin J, Smith G.N., and Honer W. The genomic era and families’ perceptions of psychotic disorders: Genetic risk estimation, associations with reproductive decisions and views about predictive testing. American Journal of Medical Genetics: Neuropsychiatric Genetics 2006. 141(8) p926-928

Austin J. and Peay, H.L. Applications and Limitations of Empiric Data in Provision of Recurrence Risks for Schizophrenia: A practical review for healthcare professionals providing clinical psychiatric genetics consultations. Clinical Genetics 2006. 70 (3) p177-187

Austin JC, and Honer WG. The genomic era and serious mental illness: a potential application for psychiatric genetic counseling. Psychiatric Services 2007. 58(2) p254-261

Peay HL, Palmer C, Sheidley B, McCarthy Veach P, Gettig B, Austin JC. Psychiatric disorders in clinical genetics I: Assessing family histories of psychiatric disorders. Journal of Genetic Counseling 2008 17(1) p6-17.

Austin JC, Palmer C, Sheidley B, McCarthy Veach P, Gettig B, Peay HL. Psychiatric disorders in clinical genetics II: Individualizing recurrence risks for psychiatric disorders. Journal of Genetic Counseling 2008 17(1) p18-29.

Austin JC, and Honer WG. Psychiatric genetic counseling for parents of individuals with psychotic disorders: a pilot study. Early Intervention in Psychiatry 2008 2 p80-89.

Voineskos AN, Lang DJ, Zai G, Bulgin N, Shaikh S, Su W, Kopala, LC, MacEwan, GW, Thornton AE, Smith GN, Austin JC, Honer WG, Kennedy JL. MAG Gene Variation and Cortical Gray Matter Volume in First Episode Schizophrenia. Brain Imaging and Behaviour 2008. 2(2) p117-122.

Hippman C, Oberlander T, Honer WG, Misri S, Austin JC. Depression during pregnancy: the impact on maternal mood of increased risk for fetal aneuploidy. Clinical Genetics 2009 75 p30-36.

Du Souich C, Austin JC, Friedlander R, Boerkoel CF. A Novel Syndrome With Psychiatric Features and Review of Malformation Syndromes with Psychiatric Disorders American Journal of Medical Genetics 2009 149A(4):713-21.

Smith GN, Wong H, MacEwan GW, Kopala LC, Ehmann TS, Thornton AE, Lang DJ, Barr AM, Procyshyn R, Austin JC, Flynn SW, Honer WG. Predictors of starting to smoke cigarettes in patients with first episode psychosis Schizophrenia Research 2009 108(1-3):258-64.

Monaco L, Conway L, Valverde K, and Austin JC. Genetic counselors’ perceptions and practices relating to schizophrenia. Public Health Genomics. 2010 13: 21-26.

Hunter, MJ, Hippman, C, Honer, WG, Austin JC. Genetic counseling for schizophrenia: trends in referrals to a catchment area medical genetics program over 40 years (1968-2007). In press, American Journal of Medical Genetics, 2010 152A: 147-152.

Austin, J.C. Re-conceptualizing risk in genetic counseling: implications for clinical practice. Journal of Genetic Counseling, 2010, 19(3): 228-34.

Devlin AM, Brain U, Austin JC, Oberlander TF. Maternal MTHFR C677T genotype & depressed mood during pregnancy affects SLC6A4 methylation in infants at birth PLOS 1 2010, 5(8):e12201

Feret H, Conway L, Austin JC. Genetic Counselors’ attitudes towards individuals with schizophrenia: desire for social distance and endorsement of stereotypes. Patient Education and Counseling 2011 82: 69-73

McBride R, Austin JC. Sex testing or gender verification: is there a difference and does it matter? Journal of Genetic Counseling, 2011 20:113-114

Chan RCK*. Austin JC*, Pearson VJ, Gong Q, Honer WG. Translating genomic research into care for people with schizophrenia in China. Schizophrenia Research, 2011, 131:31-34

Zierhut H*, Austin JC. How inclusion of genetic counselors on the research team can benefit translational science.
Science Translational Medicine. 2011, 3(75): 75-76.

Anderson K., Austin JC. Influencing genetic counselors’ attitudes towards people with mental illness: a pilot study. Journal of Genetic Counseling. 2012, 21: 573-81.

Hippman C., Inglis, A., Austin JC. What is a “balanced” description? Insight from parents of individuals with Down syndrome. Journal of Genetic Counseling. 2012, 21(1): 35-44

Inglis A, Hippman C., Austin JC. Prenatal testing for Down Syndrome: Perspectives of parents of affected individuals. American Journal of Medical Genetics 2012, 158A (4), 743-50.

Austin JC, Hippman, C, and Honer, WG. Descriptive and numeric estimation of risk for psychotic disorders among affected individuals and relatives: implications for clinical practice. Psychiatric Research 2012, 196(1) 52-6.

Lautenbach D, Hiraki S, Whalen Campion M,Austin JC. Mothers’ perspectives on their child’s mental illness as compared to other complex disorders in their family: insights to inform genetic counseling practice. Journal of Genetic Counseling. 2012, 21: 564-72. 

Morris E, Inglis A, Friedman J, Austin JC: Discussing the psychiatric manifestations of 22q11.2 deletion syndrome: an exploration of clinical practice among medical geneticists. Genetics in Medicine. 2013 15, 713-720.

Yaremco E, Inglis A, Innis S, Hippman C, Carrion, P, Lamers Y, Honer WG, Austin JC. Red Blood cell Folate concentrations in pregnant women with a history of mood disorders: a case series. Birth Defects Research part A, 2013 97(6), 416-420 ].

Hippman C, Lohn Z, Inglis A, Ringrose A, Cheek A, Austin JC. “Nothing is absolute in life”: Understanding uncertainty in the context of psychiatric genetic counseling from the perspective of those with serious mental illness. Journal of Genetic Counseling 2013 22(5) 625-632.

Maio M, Carrion P, Yaremco E, Austin JC. Awareness of genetic counseling and perceptions of its purpose: A survey of the Canadian public. Journal of Genetic Counseling 2013, 22(6) 762-770.

Inglis A, Hippman C, Carrion P, Honer WG, Austin JC. Mania and depression in the perinatal period among women with a history of major depressive disorders. Archives of Womens Mental Health 2014, 17(2) 137-43.

Ashtiani S, Makela N, Carrion P, Austin J. Parents’ Experiences of Receiving their Child’s Genetic Diagnosis: A Qualitative Study to Inform Clinical Genetics Practice. American Journal of Medical Genetics 2014, 164(6) 1496-1502.

Lohn Z, Inglis A, Austin J, and Hippman C. A ‘cure’ for Down syndrome:What do parents want? Clinical Genetics 2014. 86(4):310-7

Austin J, Semaka A, Hadjipavlou G. Conceptualizing genetic counseling as psychotherapy in the era of genomic medicine.Journal of Genetic Counseling 2014. 23(6) 903-909

Inglis A, Koehn D, McGillivray B, Stewart E, Austin J. Evaluating the first specialist clinical psychiatric genetic counseling service: uptake and impact. Clinical Genetics 2015, 87(3)218-224

Ke S, Lai L, Sun T, Yang M, Wang JCC, Austin JC. Healthy Young Minds: The Effects of a One-hour Classroom Workshop on Mental Illness Stigma in High School Students. Community Mental Health Journal, 2015, 51(3):329-37

Talcott-Baughman S, Morris E, Jensen K, Austin J.Disclosure of psychiatric manifestations of 22q11.2 deletion syndrome in medical genetics: a 12 year retrospective chart review. Am J Med Genet 2015, 167(10):2350-6

Ryan J, Virani A, Austin J. Ethical issues associated with genetic counselling in the context of adolescent psychiatry. Appl Transl Genomics 2015, 5(1):23-9

Austin J. The effect of genetic test-based risk information on behavioural outcomes: a critical examination of failed trials and call to action. Am J Med Genet. 2015,167(12):2913-5

Hippman C, Ringrose A, Inglis A, Cheek J, Albert AY, Remick R, Honer WG, Austin JC. A pilot randomized clinical trial of the impact of genetic counseling for individuals with serious mental illness. J Clin Psych 2016, 77(2):e190–e198

Mighton C, Inglis A, Carrion P, Hippman C, Morris E, Andrighetti H, Batallones R, Honer W, Austin J. Perinatal psychosis in mothers with a history of major depressive disorder. Arch Women Ment Health 2016;19(2):253-8

Austin JC. 2020 Vision: Genetic Counselors as the recognized leaders in the integration of genetics and genomics into healthcare (Incoming presidential address). Journal of Genetic Counseling. 2016. 25(1) 1-5