The C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research at VCU recently sponsored a Discovery Dialogue presentation led by Joseph McClay, Ph.D., assistant professor for the VCU Department of Pharmacotherapy & Outcomes Science. McClay’s seminar, titled “Discovery of genetic predictors for central nervous system drug response: the path to personalized treatment,” focused on personalized medicine and the process of mapping and characterizing genes for antipsychotic drug response.
McClay, who has a background in human genetics and has worked in the field of psychiatric drugs for the the last decade, shared a story of Hippocrates of Kos, also known as Hippocrates II. Hippocrates, a Greek physician of the Age of Pericles, was the first to suggest that there is a “great difference in the constitution of individuals,” and expanded the idea even further to highlight the value in making “changes in drugging or in regimen to suit the individual conditions of age, season, physique and disease.”
This notion of individual treatment with the acknowledgement that people may react differently to drugs based off their individual conditions and genetic makeup continues today.
The application of drugs in psychiatry is still relatively new compared to the history of medicine. Until the late 1940’s there were no effective drug treatments for psychiatric disorders. McClay went on to discuss the issues associated with drug treatment in psychiatry, which includes variation in efficacy and side effects, long lag times when observing responses for many drugs, and diagnostic uncertainty, among others.
“When attempting to understand the genetics of drug response, you must look at two parallels goals: understanding the mechanics of drug response, and personalizing the right drug at first presentation,” said McClay. “Doing so will improve efficacy and reduce side effects.”
First image up top: Joseph McClay, Ph.D., assistant professor for the VCU Department of Pharmacotherapy & Outcomes Science