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BioRealm Snags $1M in NIDA Funds for Nicotine Addiction Research Array

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The genetics research technology developer BioRealm has reeled in a $1 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to develop and launch a genotyping array aimed at supporting research projects focused on the genetics of nicotine dependency. 

The Phase II Small Business Innovation Research award will fund development of the Smokescreen array, which uses the Affymetrix Axiom technology to screen 600,000 genetic variants, the Monument, Colo.-based company said today. 

The Smokescreen and its related software will be targeted toward supporting researchers investigating nicotine addiction, smoking cessation therapies, and the consequences of tobacco use. The genomic regions the test will focus on have been associated with addiction and with the brain's reward system, the firm said. 

During the two-year project, BioRealm plans to collaborate with addiction researchers to create "a roadmap of future clinical products."

Genetics is known to play a role in how strong an individual's nicotine addiction tobacco may be, which in turn could affect both how hard it is for them to quit smoking and which smoking cessation strategies might work best, the company said. 

"An important part of this project will be building a framework for biomarker development, which may classify smokers and suggest smoking cessation therapies based on individual characteristics, including genetics," BioRealm Co-founder James Baurley said in a statement.

Baurley said the firm will develop statistical methods to create predictive models based on biological information, data from previous studies, and information from this project as it becomes available. 

“Large-scale, disease-specific genotyping arrays have had a lot of success following up on prior research and discovering new risk loci," added Christopher Edlund, Bioinformatics Principal at BioRealm. 

The company currently is enrolling early-access users of the Smokescreen platform, and it expects to start manufacturing the arrays in the fourth quarter of this year. 

BioRealm received an initial Phase I award of $150,000 to help fund development of the Smokescreen in June of 2012. 

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