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New Pharmacogenetic Center for Addiction and Mental Health Established in Ontario

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – A new center in Ontario, Canada focused on pharmacogenetic applications for addiction and mental health has been established with a C$19 million (US$19.1 million) investment.

The center, called the Tanenbaum Centre for Pharmacogenetics, is a collaboration between businessman Lawrence Tanenbaum, the Ontario government, and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and will support research to accelerate the time it takes to get genetic information to physicians and patients in Ontario.

The research is to be conducted in the DNA laboratory of Jim Kennedy and the clinic of Daniel Mueller, and the center will be part of the Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute.

"Mistakes in drug treatment can result in devastating, even tragic side effects," Tanenbaum, the chairman and CEO of the private investment firm Kilmer Group, and chairman of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, said in a statement.

"Still, inaccurate predictions of treatment for depression happen in about 30 percent of cases and 11 percent of all mental health patients are at serious genetic risk of suffering from inappropriate dosages of medication. The size of the problem is staggering, but the research in gene science that Kennedy and his team are doing can - and will - change that," he added.

Kennedy's lab recently identified a genetic risk factor for weight gain, which is a side effect for 40 percent of schizophrenic patients who receive a commonly used group of anti-psychotic drugs, and knowing who has this genetic risk would allow physicians to determine which drugs may be most appropriate for individual patients, CAMH said.

Along with establishing the center, the investment will go toward moving the test being developed in Kennedy's lab as well as other genetic tests into medical practice through lab-on-a-chip technology being developed. The tests are available to CAMH patients, it said, and are expected to become available to physicians in the Greater Toronto Area starting in 2014.

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