The Business of Testing

Pandemic Energizes Search for Genomics-Based Early PTSD Detection Diagnostics

COVID-19 is destroying not only lives and the economy but also mental health. The global pandemic is widely expected to result in a dramatic increase in post-traumatic syndrome disorder (PTSD) cases. However, the bright side to adversity is the impetus it provides to enterprise and great achievements. A prime example of that principle may be the new collaboration between a pair of diagnostic firms—one in genomics and the other in artificial intelligence (AI)—that have set out to develop new biomarkers and methodologies that can be used for early detection of PTSD.

The Diagnostic Challenge

The current survey-based methods of early PTSD identification tend to be subjective and biased due to the stigma associated with the condition. Recognizing the need for unbiased genomic and data-driven technologies, TruGenomix, a Maryland-based developer of next-generation-based genomic tests for PTSD formed by a pair of military veterans steeped in behavioral health research, entered into talks with BlueBee, the California-based provider of a rapidly configurable omics data platform, about collaborating to create a biomarker-based risk assessment for early PTSD identification. When the pandemic hit, it infused the project with a new sense of urgency.

The Collaboration

On May 20, the companies announced their new strategic partnership. The plan calls for combining BlueBee’s expertise in AI and optimizing data flow with TruGenomix’s PTSD genomics data and analytics. Specifically, the partners will leverage BlueBee’s platform to aggregate, train and model DNA, RNA and methylation data alongside patient data and metadata from TruGenomix.

Takeaway

The ambitions behind the collaboration are huge. TruGenomix and BlueBee, which has since been acquired by Illumina, have set out to fuse genomics and digital technology to revolutionize behavioral healthcare by speeding up insight generation and laying the foundation for an industrial-scale, clinical-grade data operation that can be applied not only to PTSD but other conditions. “For something as complex as human behavioral and mental health, a data strategy must be at the core of R&D,” noted TruGenomix co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer Tshaka Cunningham in a statement.

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