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Rogers Research Center to open biobank this summer

05/26/22 12:41:pm

Rogers Research Center is reaching another milestone, as it prepares to open the biobank this summer.

The Research Center was established with a focus on three key research areas: treatment delivery, predictive analytics, and the neurophysiology of mental health. The donor-funded genetics biobank will help Rogers scientists to better understand the genetic underpinnings of behavioral health conditions and their treatment with an emphasis in pharmacogenomics, genetic risk factors, and epigenetics.

The study of how a person’s genes affect their individual response to medications, pharmacogenomics is a relatively new field combining pharmacology and genomics to develop effective, safe medications and doses tailored to a person’s biology and metabolism, which is determined, to a large degree, by their genetics.

“Rogers is committed to the most promising scientific evidence to advance its Mission to help people reach their full potential for health and well-being,” says Kelly Piacsek, vice president, Research. “Developing a biobank within Rogers Research Center allows us to connect the clients we serve to innovations in mental health by studying the intersection of unique patient outcomes, treatment plans, and individual genetic profiles.”

The importance of genetics

Mental health diagnoses and treatment plans are currently based primarily on clinical observation and patient symptom reports, as genetic information is not readily available.

“A person’s genetics help us understand the underlying biological contributions to complex mental health disorders and bring us closer to personalized medicine in mental health treatment,” says Sheldon Garrison, PhD, a research scientist who leads the Research Center’s genetics and neuroscience program.

For instance, genetic information can help:

  • Classify patients into different treatment groups
  • Identify genetic risk factors
  • Optimize drug selection
  • Tailor drug dosage based on an individual’s metabolism

Researchers believe that by using patient genetic information, providers can select appropriate medications, resulting in the potential for greater treatment efficiency due to fewer medication changes, reduced healthcare costs, and improved quality of life.

MicrosoftTeams-image (5).pngHow the process works

The Research Center will begin participant recruitment in July and will welcome patients who volunteer to provide a saliva or blood sample to Rogers’ biobank. Researchers will collect the samples for potential DNA processing and code the samples for easy and accurate access for studies.

The unique nature of Rogers’ ROAS system (Rogers Online Assessment System), as well as the design of the biobank, allow the Research Center to store all DNA samples in a deidentified fashion.

The Research team hopes to collect up to 4,000 samples a year, with an initial emphasis on growing the repository of samples for collaborative research projects. Long-term applications aim to impact both research and patient care.

Recruitment will begin within the OCD and Anxiety and Depression Recovery programs. More service lines and programs will be added in the future, and the goal is to eventually expand to include community members, including patient parents, children, and siblings.

Enabling future discoveries

Samples stored within the biobank will serve as a valued resource for future studies designed to further genetic research of mental health disorders.

“When it comes to the biobank, Rogers Research Center is forming collaborations with trusted, innovative partners to advance our core priorities in pharmacogenomics, metabolomics, and advanced biospecimen analysis to improve treatment planning using evidence-based practices,” Dr. Piacsek says.

For instance, the Research Center plans to partner with Baylor University, University of North Carolina, and University of California-San Francisco on OCD-related studies.

Genetic data will also be used for internal, innovative research projects facilitated by the Research Center, including:

  • Guiding medication selection using genetic information
  • Exploring the genetic contributions to the symptom severity and clinical presentation of behavioral health conditions
  • Determining genetic links between different behavioral health conditions

The Rogers advantage

Several factors set Rogers’ biobank apart from others. One is the target population. Existing biobanks are lacking data from patients with the type of rare and acute mental health conditions that Rogers treats. This genetic data is critical to narrowing gaps in the research field.

Consequently, Rogers will not be dependent on external agencies for participant recruitment. Instead, we can directly engage with patients and their families at points of recovery to share how impactful a deidentified biospecimen donation can be to the future of mental health treatment.

Lastly, Rogers is able to bridge genetic information with patient outcomes and treatment history.

“Rogers’ genetics projects will benefit from the nearly one billion patient data points that link patient-reported outcomes through clinical progress batteries and deidentified electronic medical record data,” Dr. Piacsek says.

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