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All Along the Genome

A recent study in Nature linked more than a hundred sites in the human genome to schizophrenia risk. Researchers were relieved, Nature Reviews Drug Discovery notes, to see one site — DRD2 — on the list.

"It was really quite vindicating and intellectually fascinating that DRD2 popped up given its critical importance for drug development,” says the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill's Patrick Sullivan.

The same study, which examined up to 36,989 cases and 113,075 controls in a multi-stage schizophrenia genome-wide association study, also linked a number of new sites to disease risk while simultaneously highlighting the complex nature of schizophrenia development. Still, the results provide avenues for drug developers to explore.

Pfizer's Jens Wendland, one of the study's co-authors, tells Nature Reviews Drug Discovery that his company has sifted through the result to narrow in on a "handful" of regions. "[W]e are investing a number of resources into following up on those with the aim being that we develop a path towards a preclinical data package," he adds.

The GWAS results, though, didn’t pick out the AChR or PDE10 genes. A number of companies, Nature Reviews Drug Discovery says, are targeting the proteins those genes encode as possible schizophrenia therapies.

"Genetics is important for us in the drug industry, but it's not sufficient to justify a drug development program," Gerhard Koenig, chief scientific officer at FORUM Pharmaceuticals notes. "You can affect the disease pathway even if you don't have genetic linkage."