Numerous novel neuroscience-based drug targets have been identified in recent years. However, it remains unclear how these targets relate to the expression of symptoms in central nervous system (CNS) disorders in general and psychiatric disorders in particular. To discuss this issue, a New Frontiers Meetings of European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) was organized to address the challenges in translational neuroscience research that are impeding the effective development of new treatments. The main aim of this meeting was to discuss scientific insights, concepts and methodologies in order to improve drug development for psychiatric disorders. The meeting was designed to bring together stakeholders from academia, pharmaceutical industry, and regulatory agencies. Here we provide a synopsis of the proceedings from the meeting entitled 'New approaches to psychiatric drug development'. New views on psychiatric drug development were presented to address the challenges and pitfalls as identified by the different stakeholders. The general conclusion of the meeting was that drug discovery could be stimulated by designing new classification and sensitive assessment tools for psychiatric disorders, which bear closer relationships to neuropharmacological and neuroscientific developments. This is in line with the vision of precision psychiatry in which patients are clustered, not merely on symptoms, but primarily on biological phenotypes that represent pathophysiological relevant and 'drugable' processes. To achieve these goals, a closer collaboration between all stakeholders in early stages of development is essential to define the research criteria together and to reach consensus on new quantitative biological methodologies and etiology-directed treatments.