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Precision medicine for schizophrenia

University of Newcastle

  • Schizophrenia Research Grant
Date Funded:
  • 29 July, 2022
Chief Investigator/s:
  • Dr. Murray Cairns

Project Summary

We will demonstrate a genetically informed precision medicine approach for schizophrenia treatment using patient derived cerebral tissue culture.

What is the issue for NSW?

Schizophrenia is a difficult to treat psychotic illness that presents a tremendous burden to individuals, the healthcare system, and the NSW economy. The treatment of schizophrenia has not improved significantly in 60 years; most drugs targeting the psychotic symptoms but not the underlying cause. Recent genetic studies have substantially increased our understanding of the pathogenesis of schizophrenia. These insights have not yet led to new treatments as the tremendous number of genetic variables and the high degree of variation between individuals poses a significant barrier and makes potential targets less attractive for pharmaceutical development. This preclinical research uses the patient’s genetic information to find a match with potential treatments. This precision medicine approach must be validated in the laboratory, in vitro using cultured cells.

What does the research aim to do and how?

The researchers have developed a precision medicine platform to optimise clinical response by directing existing and potential new treatments for schizophrenia. This methodology uses pharmacological annotation of genetic risk to identify new treatments and the means to predict an individual’s likely response.

The research uses a cerebral tissue model made from a patient’s blood sample to test the response to drugs which are selected using the patient’s genetic information.

The in vitro validation of this approach in the laboratory is the first step towards genetically informed, precision treatment of schizophrenia in the clinic, and a potentially transformative change to treatment of this disease.

This research will:

  • establish individual schizophrenia models using patient derived cerebral organoids in vitro
  • use the individual schizophrenia models to compare genetically predicted pharmacological interventions
  • validate the ability of a pharmagenic enrichment strategy to predict an individual’s response to new and existing medications in vitro.