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GEN News Highlights : May 22, 2013

NIH Grant Won Toward Developing ASD, Mental Illness Gene-Seeking Software

The NIH awarded $1.8M to Partek in collaboration with the Kennedy Krieger Institute to develop commercial software to analyze human genetic changes that will illuminate chromosomal abnormalities that underlie conditions such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.

Previously, as announced back in November of 2011, Partek and Kennedy Krieger collaborated to develop a novel mathematical method that combined two commonly used genotype association approaches to reveal the opaque genetic distinction between individuals. While that study focused on estimating the relatedness between populations, this study, Partek says, will leverage that research and narrow its focus to families with one or more members affected by ASD. This, the firms hope, will facilitate the development of analysis tools to identify chromosomal abnormalities with the goal of identifying individuals with ASD during infancy. These same analysis tools could be used in the early diagnosis of mental health conditions including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, potentially enabling early treatment.

This grant comes not long after recently reported research from Massachusetts General Hospital showed that ASD, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and schizophrenia may share genetic risk factors.