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Creator of genetic risk test for addiction takes steps in market

August 07, 2018

Around two months into the commercial availability of their genetic test for determining an individual's risk for developing an addiction, leaders at Geneus Health are celebrating the awarding of a broad-based patent for their test.

Justin Jones, CEO of the San Antonio-based Geneus Health, tells Addiction Professional that the company is the first in the United States to receive a patent for a genetic test. He adds that the patent for the Genetic Addiction Risk Score (GARS) test covers a range of components, from the panel of genes that are tested in GARS to its scoring system for evaluating risk.

“This blindsided the whole company,” says Jones, conveying the organization's excitement over receiving a comprehensive patent in a historically challenging product category.

GARS is not an assessment per se, but a tool that through analysis of an individual's DNA can evaluate vulnerability to what scientist and GARS developer Kenneth Blum, PhD, calls “reward deficiency syndrome.” This refers to an altered chemical balance in the brain that is believed to increase risk of not only addiction, but a variety of other compulsive behaviors.

Blum is Geneus Health's chief clinical officer, and will be co-presenting a session titled “Precision Addiction Management: The Future Is Now” on Aug. 19 at the National Conference on Alcohol and Addiction Disorders in Anaheim, Calif.

Jones emphasizes that Geneus Health will be delving into GARS' applicability to a number of other conditions beyond addiction—with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) among the main targets.

In terms of addiction, Jones sees GARS as potentially playing a major role in prevention, allowing healthcare professionals and families to identify opportunities for risk reduction. “If we can understand the predisposition [to addiction], people can live healthier lives,” he says.

A Notice of Allowance regarding Geneus Health's patent application was issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in late July. The company has subsequently paid the fees required for official publication of the patent.

Potential markets

Jones says he sees several potential markets for the test, which became available commercially around eight weeks ago:

  • Treatment facilities, including substance use treatment centers and pain clinics. Jones says that a test that can demonstrate to patients a genetic predisposition to an addictive disorder could help patients overcome the hurdle of denial and shame, by helping to communicate that “it's not your fault.”

  • Individual physicians, such as a prescriber of opioids who could use the test to determine a patient's potential susceptibility to misuse.

  • A “curiosity market” of individuals who have gone from being skeptical about genetic testing to being inquisitive about where they are from and what lifestyle choices they should make. The presence of services that seek to trace one's ancestry, for example, has helped to demystify genetic testing within the general public, Jones says.

Jones adds that while the cheek swab product has potential to be offered as a direct-to-consumer test, “You want to have a healthcare provider involved” in administering it and interpreting the results.

Geneus maintains a registration process for providers, who Jones says must complete a free online certification course before they are allowed to administer the test. Genetic samples are shipped to an evaluation lab, with results available within five to seven business days via an online portal.

Jones reports that the suggested retail price for the test is $299, with per-test costs lower for volume purchases.

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