By Abigail Kendal (’22)
Oftentimes, we live in a dichotomous world: a world defined by black and white and yes and no decisions. Disciplines are either technical and scientific or creative and imaginative. Cures are medical or alternative. We study biology, chemistry, and physics or history, art, and literature. However, these intersections blur more often than we may expect. The study of psychiatry lies directly at the convergence of science and creativity, and this has presented several challenges for both medical professionals and patients for decades. As a way to overcome these difficulties, scientists and entrepreneurs are exploring alternative options for prescribing psychotropic drugs, and a company called Genesight is at the forefront of this ever growing movement for the integration of cellular biology, psychology, neuroscience, and patient care.
If you were to have visited a psychiatrist five years ago, the appointment would follow a certain course of action. First, the psychiatrist would take an in-depth look at your mental and physical health history, including therapy, present symptoms of mental illnesses, medical issues, and any past diagnoses. Next, the psychiatrist, depending on the individual’s unique condition, would suggest various forms of treatment including alternative medications, diet, exercise, mediation, and often psychiatric medication. Frequently, medication needs to be adjusted and changed. The world of psychotropic medications is vast and often difficult to navigate for patients without the guidance of a professional. Even for a medical expert, prescribing medications can present several hardships as an individual’s reaction to these drugs is unknown, at least until now.
Founded in 2012, Genesight is one of many companies revolutionizing how the world understands psychiatry and the process of mental health treatment. Rather than engaging in the risky and complicated guessing game of medications, Genesight employs groundbreaking DNA testing to match patients with prospective medications based on their biology. After submitting a saliva sample, Genesight sorts medications into three categories: use as directed, moderate gene-drug interactions, and significant gene-drug interactions. These categories filter medications used to treat the patient’s condition into classifications intended to minimise the side effects of the drugs, track the metabolization of the medications, and maximize the benefits. The comprehensive report also includes clinical considerations, pharmacodynamic genes, and patient genotypes and phenotypes. Furthermore, the report encompasses several facets of psychiatric treatments, including antidepressants, anxiolytics and hypnotics, antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers, making this test suitable for the treatment of the majority of mental illnesses. Best yet, 95% of patients pay less than $330 dollars for their Genesight test, as accessibility is a priority to this company.
Not only is this company a testament to the future of medicine, but it also highlights how creativity and the human imagination are inextricably tied to bettering the lives of others through science and technology. In fact, this company is not the future of medicine, rather it is grounded firmly in the present, for we never know what may emerge on the horizon.