The Canadian subsidiary of neurological diseasespecialist Lundbeck has donated $2.7 million towards a nationwide study aimedat identifying biomarkers of major depression and bipolar disorder.

Lundbeck Canada’sdonation will fund the Canadian Depression Biomarker Network, a researchinitiative involving six academic centres across Canada and led by the Toronto-basedUniversity Health Network.

The six centres are theUniversity Health Network (comprising TorontoGeneral and Toronto Western hospitals, Princess Margaret Hospitals and the TorontoRehabilitation Institute), the Ontario Cancer Biomarker Network, McMaster University,Queen’s University, the University of British Columbia and the University of Calgary.

Future treatment of mooddisorders lies in personalised medicine, which entails identifying biomarkersand developing targeted therapies, said Lundbeck Canada and its partners. This inturn calls for large-scale studies to define accurately sub-populations.

The biomarker approachcombines clinical data (including measures of anxiety, cognition,function/quality of life, life events, personality and symptom severity) withmolecular data to provide measures of gene and protein function in the body aswell as brain scans that characterise the function of important mood-regulatingbrain circuits, the partners noted.

The Canadian DepressionBiomarker Network will conduct a large-scale, nationwide research project inwhich detailed clinical, neuro-imaging, genetic and molecular data will becollected from people with depression during a standardised, two-stage courseof treatment.

The research team will thenidentify individuals whose symptoms remitted and those whose symptoms did not. Informaticsand mathematical modelling techniques will be used to profile individualpatients, make personalised predictions about treatment responses, developappropriate treatment algorithms and identify new therapeutic targets.   

Integrated approach

“Research into depression hasrevealed many outstanding advances in the areas of brain function, molecularbiology and genetics,” commented Dr Sidney Kennedy,psychiatrist-in-chief for the University Health Network, Professor ofPsychiatry at the Universityof Torontoand study leader for the Canadian Depression Biomarker Network.

“However, so far this hasn'tbeen translated into advances in treatment,” Kennedy added.  “What we need is an integrated and unifiedapproach that takes into account an individual’s unique genetic, environmentaland biological makeup, creating a ‘personalized medicine’ approach.”

Around one in eight people inCanadawill develop depression during their lifetime, with the total cost to theCanadian economy estimated at $51 billion per year.