May 7, 2012 – Lawrence Tanenbaum, O.C., along with his wife Judy Tanenbaum, today joined the Honourable Brad Duguid Minister of Economic Development and Innovation, renowned researcher Dr. Jim Kennedy and Dr. Catherine Zahn, President and CEO, CAMH, to announce a $19 million collaboration and open the Tanenbaum Centre for Pharmacogenetics at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).
This centre, a collaboration between Larry Tanenbaum, the Ontario Government and CAMH, has been established to support the groundbreaking research in the
DNA laboratory of Dr. Kennedy and the clinic of Dr. Daniel Mueller to accelerate the time it takes to get genetic information to physicians and patients across Ontario. The Centre will be part of the Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute at CAMH’s College Street location.
“Pharmacogenetics” is an aspect of personalized medicine research that aims to help doctors understand in advance which individuals carry a genetic risk for serious side-effects from specific drugs. Genetic testing will also be helpful in determining who is more likely to respond to a given medication and if dose adjustments need to be considered. Similar work is being done in cancer and pain management, but CAMH is one of the world leaders in psychiatric applications of this research.
“Mistakes in drug treatment can result in devastating, even tragic side-effects. Still, inaccurate predictions of treatment for depression happen in about 30 per cent of cases and 11 per cent of all mental health patients are at serious genetic risk of suffering from inappropriate dosages of medication. The size of the problem is staggering, but the research in gene science that Dr. Kennedy and his team are doing can – and will – change that,” said Mr. Tanenbaum, Chairman and CEO of the Kilmer Group, Chair of the Board, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, and Governor of the NHL, NBA and Major League Soccer.
“We are honoured to be part of this collaboration because it holds the promise that one day soon drugs will be adapted to each person’s genetic make-up. The faster these discoveries can get out of the lab, the sooner more effective and safe therapies will become available – changing and saving lives.”
“Ontario’s ongoing commitment to world-class research is one reason the province is home to more than 500 top neuroscientists,” said Minister of Economic Development and Innovation Brad Duguid. “Our support of the new Tanenbaum Centre for Pharmacogenetics promises to improve medical care and quality of life for psychiatric patients and their families, save our health care system millions of dollars, while creating good jobs.”
Most recently, Dr. Kennedy’s lab has identified a new genetic risk factor for serious weight gain, a side-effect for 40 per cent of schizophrenia patients who receive a commonly used group of anti-psychotic drugs. Understanding in advance which individuals carry this genetic risk would help doctors know when to prescribe different drugs.
Along with establishing the Centre, the investment will move this and other genetic tests into medical practice through “lab-on-a-chip” technology currently in development. Clinical delivery of these tests is already available for CAMH patients, and extension to GTA-area physicians is expected to begin in 2014. Furthermore, the biotechnology development initiative within this program will create an increasing number of knowledge-based jobs in Ontario as the core genetics research expands.
For Dr. Kennedy, this investment sets in motion the potential to revolutionize psychiatry by scaling up testing and fueling the drive to find new genetic tests: “If we could prevent serious side effects such as movement disorders, sleep disturbance and increased risk of cardiovascular disease, I truly believe more people in need would stay on their medication and derive the long-term benefits of better mental health, living longer more productive and fuller lives with their families.”
“This investment represents a powerful model to support what has been a long underfunded area of health care. We are deeply thankful for Larry Tanenbaum’s vision to propel this promising field forward and for the partnership of the Ontario Government in helping to make this possible,” said Dr. Zahn. “Initiatives like this will allow us to deliver better mental health services to the one in five Canadians who will face problems in their lifetime.”
The Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute at CAMH focuses on interdisciplinary research to deliver early detection methods, effective new treatments and better systems of care for the millions of people worldwide who struggle with mental illness or addiction. CAMH is Canada's largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital, combing clinical care, research, education, policy development and health promotion to help transform the lives of people affected by mental illness and addictions.
CAMH is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, and is a Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization Collaborating Centre.