As many as two thirds of all psychiatric patients do not respond well to treatment with drugs. While compliance and frequent side effects play a major role, there are also genetic variations which determine whether serious side effects occur, and which can also prevent medication from working. An international consortium, in which
Prof. Martien Kas
) is partner, is to conduct a pharmacogenomic study to establish the relationship between response to treatment and genetic background. The University of Maastricht is coordinator. The research project was recently awarded EUR 8 million in European funding.
Kas receives EUR 382,000 for his part in the project.
The international consortium, which apart from Maastricht University also includes the University of Groningen and the mental healthcare provider Parnassia Groep, will use artificial intelligence to map pharmacogenomic characteristics. At the same time, it will conduct a large-scale clinical study among people suffering from depression, psychosis, or anxiety, again using artificial intelligence to create an algorithm to personalise drug prescriptions, thus reducing side effects and increasing efficacy.
The research group of Prof. Martien Kas (GELIFES) is involved as a partner in this EU project with their BEHAPP smartphone application for real-world assessments of human behaviour. The BEHAPP app will be implemented in the clinical trial for passive and active patient monitoring in daily psychiatric care in 9 inclusion sites across Europe. Based on the longitudinal collected smartphone data, BEHAPP behavioural endpoint measures will be derived and will be integrated in the project with other quantitative biological measures to develop an implementation strategy of pharmacogenetics-based personalised medicine in psychiatry.
Due to the chronic and recurring nature of psychiatric disorders, paired with overall increasing life expectancy, the social burden of mental illness will only continue to increase. This development shows the need to make medication in psychiatry more effective. Pharmacogenomics is the field that aims to use a knowledge of variations in human DNA to explain why medicines cause many side effects in some people and/or show little or no efficacy in others. Variations in DNA can lead to differences in the activity of proteins that enable the body to absorb drugs. Although pharmacogenomics is increasingly being applied in the Netherlands, for example in oncology, until now it has hardly been used in psychiatry.
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