PsychoGenics: Pioneering Phenotypic CNS Drug Discovery
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PsychoGenics: Pioneering Phenotypic CNS Drug Discovery

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Dr. Emer Leahy, CEO of PsychoGenics, PsychoGenicsDr. Emer Leahy, CEO of PsychoGenics
The ever-evolving challenges of the Central Nervous System(CNS) have forced pharmaceutical companies to seek the help of Contract Research Organizations(CRO) in a bid to identify new compounds for enhanced drugs and treatment mechanisms. At the helm of these requirements, the target-based approach adopted by most CROs relies heavily on attributing a disorder to specific genes. However, it fails to take into account the polygenic nature of most CNS disorders, diverse epigenetic factors, compensatory mechanisms, environmental factors and the other infinite complexities associated with each genome, leading to only a few breakthroughs in recent times.

Enter PsychoGenics - an innovative Preclinical CRO with immense expertise in CNS and orphan disorders. The company’s mission is simple - to provide validated disease models and comprehensive preclinical capabilities to help companies discover the next generation of treatments for CNS disorders and reduce the attrition rate in clinical development. Over its two-decade journey, PsychoGenics, with its robust, data-driven, and holistic ‘Phenotypic Screening’ approach, has successfully delivered groundbreaking phenotype models of multiple CNS disorders to several pharmaceutical companies at competitive prices.

At its dawn, PsychoGenics started providing behavioral testing services in mice and rats, that later became a service towards the pharmaceutical and biotech space. Expanding its suite of behavioral tests, PsychoGenics today offer a wide array of transgenic mouse models tailored to replicate various CNS disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, depression, schizophrenia, pain, and autism spectrum disorders. The prototypes are prepared by simulating them in various test environments. In addition to the behavioral capabilities, PsychoGenics also captures non-behavioral capabilities like electrophysiology, EEG, microdialysis, immunohistochemistry, and molecular pharmacology. Multiple patterns of behavior that are difficult to identify through standard endpoints, are extracted by making use of computer vision and machine learning, helping pharmaceutical companies make critical decisions in considering a particular compound and taking it forward.

With currently about 120 employees and relationships with over 400 companies worldwide, the company, through its long journey, has developed many drug discovery platforms. “About 90 percent of our business comes from repeat clients, which I think is important because it speaks to quality. We take quality very seriously. It’s paramount to everything we do,” says Dr. Emer Leahy, CEO of PsychoGenics. Of them, the AI-driven SmartCube deserves special mention.

“We have developed a lot of our hardware, combined that with robotics, applied cameras to extract the behavior using computer vision and then machine learning to extract patterns of behavior. And in doing so, we’ve been able to help companies make predictions about the capabilities of their treatments. This has been pretty successful”


SmartCube employs robotics, computer vision, and machine learning to extract patterns of behavior in response to treatments, analyze the complex data accumulated, and make predictions about therapeutic utility. As many as six partnered clinical programs have been developed powered by SmartCube, including the SEP-363856 partnered with Sunovion in phase 3 for schizophrenia. “We have developed a lot of our hardware, combined that with robotics applied cameras to extract the behavior using computer vision and then machine learning to extract patterns of behavior. And in doing so, we’ve been able to help companies make predictions about the capabilities of their treatments. This has been pretty successful,” states Dr. Leahy.

“About 90 percent of our business comes from repeat clients, which I think is important because it speaks to quality. We take quality very seriously. It’s paramount to everything we do”

Paramount care and attention to detail are synonymous with PsychoGenics. During its tests, study cases are run blinded to treatment, study groups randomized, and reference compounds included per the guidelines of Animal Research Reporting of In Vivo Experiments(ARRIVE). “The thinking that went into SmartCube is also applied to many of the standard tests that we run. We’re very much focussed on data analytics and looking at data differently to extract meaningful information that helps support critical decisions to take compounds forward to the clinic,” inform Dr. Leahy. Another remarkable feat is that the company has recently secured a $50 million contract from the National Institutes of Health(NIH) over five years as a part of the Heal initiative to study pain models and test putative treatments in search of non-addictive analgesic treatments. The program known as the Preclinical Screening Program in Pain(PSPP) was awarded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke(NINDS) and invites companies and academic labs to sent putative analgesics to NINDS for screening at no cost to them.

“The thinking that went into SmartCube is also applied to many of the standard tests that we run. We’re very much focussed on data analytics and looking at data differently to extract meaningful information that helps support critical decisions to take compounds forward to the clinic”

With renewed interest in CNS, PsychoGenics has come to be an extension to its client’s research programs. And with startups coming into the fore in this space, PsychoGenics will continue to bring breakthroughs in CNS drug discovery and improved treatment methodologies, positively impacting millions of victims in the process.
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Company
PsychoGenics

Headquarters
Paramus, NJ

Management
Dr. Emer Leahy, CEO of PsychoGenics

Description
PsychoGenics is a preclinical CRO dedicated to discovering the next generation of breakthrough treatments for severely disabling neuropsychiatric disorders and life threatening orphan diseases. The company offers broad capabilities and disease models in many CNS therapeutic areas, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, depression, schizophrenia, pain, and autism spectrum disorders

PsychoGenics