The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and Assurex Health combine resources to bring personalized medicine in psychiatry, reducing the current trial-and-error approach
TORONTO – The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Canada’s leading hospital for mental health, and Assurex Health, a global leader in personalized medicine, have signed an agreement for a joint venture to bring the benefits of this treatment approach to more Canadians.
The personalized approach helps to match the right medication at the right dose for each patient, based on their genetic makeup. Using Assurex Health’s GeneSight panel, physicians can easily see which psychiatric medications are likely to be effective for each patient and which ones are not, often avoiding treatment failure and side effects.
“This partnership between CAMH and Assurex Health is essential to advance the widespread use of personalized medicine in psychiatry, and improve health care for Canadians who need medications for mental health problems,” said Dr. James Kennedy, head of the Tanenbaum Centre for Pharmacogenetics at CAMH. This approach is a game-changer from the current trial-and-error approach to prescribing, which results in many patients having to try different psychiatric medications, each with potential side-effects, before the best medication for them can be determined.
AssureRx Canada (ARxC) has been established as a subsidiary of the U.S. company, with its Canadian office and laboratory on CAMH premises. Assurex Health will provide backing for ARxC operations. CAMH holds a minority equity share in AssureRx Canada and will receive royalties on the sale of genetic tests that incorporate CAMH-discovered genetic markers.
“We are thrilled about our collaboration with CAMH and the opportunity to combine our leading pharmacogenomics technology to serve the Canadian market,” said James S. Burns, CEO, Assurex Health. “CAMH is a global thought leader in mental health research and treatment. CAMH discoveries will further enhance our GeneSight products, aiding medication selection and augmenting patient responses to antidepressant and antipsychotic medications. We look forward to working together to help the millions of mental health patients who desire a better treatment outcome,” said Burns.
Assurex Health has a proven track record in the U.S. with its GeneSight panel, a test reimbursed by a number of insurance companies as well as Medicare and Medicaid. In the U.S., Assurex Health data shows a 70 per cent improvement in depressive symptoms when GeneSight testing is used to predict patient response to antidepressants versus treatment as usual, and a 28 per cent reduction in health care costs. GeneSight currently provides information on 36 commonly used psychiatric medications.
In Canadian clinical trials, researchers are aiming to conduct genetic tests on 20,000 individuals. Genetic testing is currently available through CAMH’s IMPACT study (www.im-pact.ca). In Canada, the GeneSight panel will be enriched with new CAMH-discovered genetic markers. These may include markers to predict which individuals will experience weight gain after taking anti-psychotic medications. Weight gain is a serious side-effect for a substantial number of patients.
“We could not have established this joint venture without support from our Canadian partners,” said Dr. Kennedy, noting the pivotal support for CAMH’s genetic marker research by the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation and private philanthropist Larry Tanenbaum. CAMH’s Industry Partnerships and Technology Transfer Office led the commercialization team that established the business relations required for this partnership.
“CAMH’s partnership with Assurex Health reflects their established position as a Canadian leader in mental health research,” says Dr. Raphael Hofstein, president and CEO of MaRS Innovation, who consulted on the discussions. “As CAMH is one of our 16 member institutions, many of whom also have researchers working toward individualizing medicine, we welcome this development and look forward to the improvements it promises for people with mental illness in Canada and around the world.”
Posted by Kailee Travis, writer and communications assistant.