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BioRealm Gets SBIR Contract to Develop Screening Tool for Tobacco Addiction

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Bioinformatics and data analysis firm BioRealm said on Wednesday it has received a Small Business Innovation Research contract from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to develop a genetic screening tool for tobacco addiction and treatment approaches.

Dubbed Smokescreen, the screening tool by BioRealm will incorporate a custom genotyping array containing genetic variants related to tobacco dependence and treatment response, providing researchers a tool that can be used for research into addiction and for clinical trials for smoking cessation treatments. Smokescreen would also enable studies into other related disorders, the company said.

Results obtained by Smokescreen will be automatically stored and accessible through BioRealm's secure cloud-based application. Automated features of Smokescreen will include quality control, ancestry estimation, annotation, and imputation of untyped SNPs.

Citing statistics from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Los Angeles-based company said that smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease in the US with $96 billion in annual healthcare costs. While studies have shown that genetics play a significant role in nicotine addiction, the genetics of tobacco addiction is not fully understood, and addiction research has been limited by the small number of participants in clinical trials, the lack of a validated genetic screening tool, and the lack of a centralized database for storing results.

"The Smokescreen aims to solve these problems by featuring a uniform set of genetic variants, with genotyping results automatically stored and accessible via a secure cloud-based application," Christopher Edlund, bioinformatics principal at BioRealm, said in a statement. "The ability to seamlessly share and compare data across multiple studies will enable researchers and clinicians to more effectively investigate tobacco addiction."

The initial award amount for Phase I of the contract is $150,000, which covers a six-month period, Edlund told GenomeWeb Daily News in an e-mail. BioRealm would then apply for a Phase II award for $1 million over two years.

He said, however, that the company expects Smokescreen to be available shortly after the end of Phase I, during the first half of 2013.