BioRealm, LLC announced it was awarded a $1 million Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Phase II contract from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to develop and launch the Smokescreen® genotyping array for research on tobacco dependence and treatment approaches. The array uses Affymetrix’ Axiom® genotyping technology to screen over 600,000 genetic variants to support research related to nicotine addiction, smoking cessation therapies, and consequences of tobacco use.
Smoking continues to be a leading preventable cause of disease, disability and death in the United States and worldwide. According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking was estimated to be responsible for $96 billion in healthcare costs and an additional $97 billion in lost productivity in the United States annually. Due to the highly addictive properties of nicotine, people attempting to quit smoking often fail. Genetics is known to play a role in how strongly tobacco users become addicted and how they respond to different cessation therapies.
The Smokescreen product will be a targeted genotyping and software solution for scientists studying the genetics of nicotine addiction and smoking behavior, including those conducting clinical trials of smoking cessation therapies. The array will have excellent coverage of genomic regions associated with addiction, as well as biological pathways related to the metabolism of nicotine and the brain’s reward system. “Large-scale, disease-specific genotyping arrays have had a lot of success following up on prior research and discovering new risk loci”, stated Christopher Edlund, Bioinformatics Principal at BioRealm. "Tobacco addiction scientists will now have a unified genotyping array designed specifically for their research domain."
According to BioRealm, customers of Smokescreen will access their study data via a secure software application, built using the team’s statistical computing and genetics expertise. The software will feature automated quality control, data analysis pipelines, and the ability for researchers from different institutions to combine their data for powerful analyses.
During the two-year project, BioRealm will collaborate with top addiction researchers to develop a roadmap for future clinical products. "An important part of this project will be building a framework for biomarker development, which may classify smokers and suggest smoking cessation therapies based on individual characteristics, including genetics," said Dr. James Baurley, Co-founder of BioRealm. "Our team will be developing state-of-the-art statistical methods that combine all available data to build predictive models. This includes biological information, existing study data, and Smokescreen data as it becomes available."