History of Hershey

The Hershey Conference on Developmental Brain Injury - founded by Drs. Susan Vannucci and Bob Vannucci -  was first held in 1997 in Hershey, PA. Dr. Susan Vannucci and Dr. Donna Ferriero have carried on the tradition of Hershey, which has continued to provide an exceptional forum for the presentation and promotion of the most current scientific advances in this field as well as providing a unique venue to forge new collaborations among international participants. Hershey has been hosted in biannually: in Hershey in 1997, 2000, and 2002, then changing locations to Monterey, CA in 2004, Princeton, NJ in 2006 and Paris, France in 2008; this arrangement represents the geographic distribution of our international participants. With each successive meeting, this conference has grown in scientific excellence and popularity, attracting an increasing number of international participants as well as a high level of participation among trainees. With leadership by Drs. Pierre Gressens and Henrik Hagberg to hold the 2008 conference in Europe, Hershey greatly increased the number of non-US participants, including many who had not previously attended the meeting. The response was overwhelmingly positive, and since then, the European community has alternated with the US in hosting the Hershey Conference. Thus, the 7th Hershey Conference was held in June 2010 in Snowbird, Utah and the 8th Hershey Conference was held at Latimer Place, UK. The 2014 9th Conference was held in St. Michaels, Maryland, the 10th Hershey Conference was held outside of Paris, France in 2016, and the 11th Hershey conference was held at Asilomar in Pacific Grove, California. The 12th conference was scheduled to occur in Sweden; however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this was cancelled, and a virtual conference was held in its place. We are now excited to return to an in-person venue for the 13th Hershey Conference.


The overarching theme for the 13th Hershey conference will be the “Effects of the environment on prevalence and outcomes of developmental brain injury”.

The proceedings of each Hershey Conference are published as a Special Issue of Developmental Neuroscience. The papers that comprise each special issue are peer-reviewed original research articles as well as peer-reviewed reviews, resulting in issues that have been consistently well received and highly cited. Dr. Steven Levison, a member of the organizing committee, is the former Editor-in-Chief of Developmental Neuroscience and has led efforts to organize these special issues, along with the conference Chair and Co-Chair routinely serving as guest editors. 

Vision of Hershey

Despite the long history of conferences dedicated to the study of stroke/traumatic brain/CNS injury in the adult population, there are far fewer conferences focused on perinatal brain injury. The first Hershey Conference on Developmental Brain Injury, held in Hershey, Pennsylvania in 1997, was the first such conference to address this critical gap in the field. This meeting, which has since received continuous support from NIH (NINDS/NICHD/ORD), fills that void and has truly become unique in the field. Through state-of-the-art lectures, this meeting addresses the most current problems and barriers to progress in understanding and treating developmental brain injury. For each meeting, invited speakers are often leaders in fields tangential to ours, which can provide new insight into the problems we are working to solve. These invited speakers stay and participate in the entirety of the conference, further strengthening the impact of new information for our ongoing questions. Our aims focus primarily on translation of concepts from bed to bench and back again, and through that exchange of knowledge we have been able to identify new targets for therapeutics. Over the years the Hershey Conference has focused on cellular and molecular biological techniques, state of the art imaging techniques, biomarkers, genomics, metabolomics, proteomics, and other approaches to better understand and treat neonatal brain injury. In addition to providing the forum for the dissemination and discussion of new knowledge, this conference always includes a high proportion of trainees thus providing a venue for the maintenance of a pipeline of future investigators in the field. This is becoming even more important, as fewer individuals are choosing this rewarding, but difficult path.

Trainees at Hershey

Extensive participation of trainees, both from US and foreign institutions, has been a hallmark of the Hershey Conference. Trainees, both MD and PhD, constitute 30-40% of all participants. This meeting has been an excellent opportunity for informal and formal interaction among trainees and the leaders in the field, as well as a mechanism for post-doctoral and visiting scientist recruitment.


Susan Vannucci

Co-founder of the Hershey Conference

Cornell University


Donna Ferriero

Co-Founder of the Hershey Conference

University of California, San Francisco


Henrik Hagberg

Imperial College


Pierre Gressens

INSERM- Diderot University Paris


Steven Levison

Rutgers University

Scientific & Planning Committee


Raul Chavez-Valdez

Johns Hopkins University


Hemmen Sabir

German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases


Sandra Juul

13th Hershey Local Planning Committee

University of Washington


Thomas Wood

13th Hershey Local Planning Committee

University of Washington


Elizabeth Nance

13th Hershey Local Planning Committee

University of Washington