It is estimated that over 350 million people suffer from depression worldwide, making it the most common mental disorder and leading cause of disability worldwide. Depression has devastating effects on individuals, families and communities, and in USA alone it costs about $210 billion annually. Despite only 50% of patients respond to first medication, and a minority of patients achieve full remission, there are effective treatments for depression. The suboptimal response to these therapies are thought to be a result of genetic variations, which has sparked the interest in the development of tools to guide prescription.
The Melbourne-based startup CNSDose is determined to change how antidepressants are prescribed to individuals by using a genomic test. The test is a simple saliva test that determine the individual’s ability to metabolize antidepressants, and the results are sent to the doctor with a report that include the guidance of appropriate medication and dosing suggestions. This tailored approach avoid the need for trial and error when prescribing antidepressants, and significantly improve the response rate. In fact, a randomized controlled trial of 148 patients with Major Depressive Disorders found a remission rate of 72% for genetically guided dosing, versus 28% for genetically unguided dosing.
Psychologist and pharmacogeneticist Dr Ajeet Singh founded the startup after coming across a patient who received numerous inaccurate doses for his depression. By the time the patient was referred to Dr Ajeet, he had lost his job, his marriage, and attempted suicide. This unique understanding and passion of improving how depression is treated around the world, coupled with an innovative product, could significantly improve outcomes for millions of people. The startup could potentially turn the treatment of depression on its head, moving it in a more patient-led and focused direction, avoiding the need for trial and error when prescribing antidepressants.
The innovative approach not only help guide prescription, but could play an important role in strengthening the doctor-patient relationship, not to mention increase access of care. This technology could greatly benefit patients in rural areas that have few specialists and psychiatrists, giving them fast, simple and tailored results, doubling the odds of recovery.
Early 2016, CNSDose closed a seed investment of about US$1 million from two angel investors, as well as welcoming former Australian trade minister Andrew Robb to its advisory board. They aim to use the money to finance a US trial launch in October 2016, before they embark on a large Series A round to fuel a global launch in 2017.