LGC, Europe's leading independent analytical laboratory providing advanced chemical, biochemical and forensic analysis, has announced an exclusive agreement with King’s College London to offer the first pharmacogenetic screening service which will predict whether a patient with schizophrenia will respond positively to the antipsychotic drug clozapine.
Developed following 13 years of research by Professor Robert Kerwin and Dr Maria Arranz from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s, the test will help clinicians tailor the management of medication for schizophrenia to the needs of the patient.
Schizophrenia is considered the most chronic, debilitating and costly mental illness and affects between 1-2% of all populations. There is no permanent cure, but symptoms of the illness can be controlled by antipsychotic drugs. However, not all patients benefit from treatment and up to 40% of patients do not show a complete response - this is known as Treatment Resistant Schizophrenia (TRS).
Although clozapine is the only licensed drug with proven efficiency in the treatment of TRS its treatment can cause potentially serious side effects. It is therefore commonly only prescribed to patients when other medicines have failed. On average patients currently progress through four different antipsychotic medications over a period of five years before being treated with clozapine.
The test, which will be available to the clinical community from early January 2006, is a test based on a panel of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that will be analysed using LGC's proprietary fluorescent HyBeacons DNA probe technology. Dr Paul Debenham, Director of Life Sciences at LGC, said: "This new prediction test of treatment response to clozapine should prove to be an extremely valuable tool for clinicians, aiding them in their prescribing choice of antipsychotic drug for their patients. It will mean that clozapine can be prescribed much earlier on in the treatment of patients who are predicted to be responsive to the drug, thus reducing the suffering time of the patient and the associated cost of care. We are therefore delighted to be in a position to offer this kind of screening service to clinicians for the first time. This agreement is also great news for LGC, enabling us to build on our recent status as the first independent laboratory to become a member of the NHS Genetic Testing Network."
King's Professor Robert Kerwin said: "This agreement follows 13 years of research at IoP into treatment for schizophrenia, working with more than 200 patients treated with clozapine. We are therefore delighted to be sharing the results of our research and to be working with LGC to be able to bring a viable example of personalised medicine into fruition."
Dr Paul Debenham and Professor Kerwin will be giving a presentation to discuss this new screening service at the 'Good Practice in Biological Investigation' conference at Institute of Psychiatry, Denmark Hill campus, King’s College London, on Tuesday 8 November 2005. genetic services.