News at Medicine - December 2006 - Award for innovation

Award for innovation
December 1, 2006

The St. John’s Board of Trade annual excellence award for innovation was presented Dec. 6 to Newfound Genomics Inc. The award was for the company’s development of a diagnostic test that predicts the way patients with depressive symptoms respond to drugs. The test is designed to make drugs safer and more effective.


Newfound Genomics Inc., established in 2000, is a multidisciplinary biotechnology company in Newfoundland and Labrador utilizing clinical genomics to research the genetic basis of complex diseases using collaborative relationships with industry, government and academia to expedite discoveries. 

Dr. Proton Rahman is the chief scientific officer of Newfound Genomics, an associate professor of Medicine at Memorial University and a consultant rheumatologist at St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital. He is considered to be an expert in the genetics of complex rheumatic diseases. He has over 60 scientific publications and has identified key genetic determinants in multiple rheumatic diseases. His expertise in genetics research has been recognized by Memorial University (President’s Award for outstanding research), the Canadian Rheumatology Association (Young Investigator Award), and the American College of Rheumatology.

Newfound Genomics is developing a pharmacogenetic diagnostic test which genotypes established genetic variants with strong clinical correlates using a flexible, affordable platform. This pharmacogenetic diagnostic test effectively predicts drug response in patients presenting with depressive symptoms. This diagnostic test, with appropriate clinical interpretation, is not only attractive to the health care system but also to the pharmaceutical industry.

To validate the pharmacogenetic diagnostic test, Newfound Genomics has partnered with the Population Therapeutics Research Group (PTRG), a non-profit research team led by Dr. Rahman in the Faculty of Medicine at Memorial University.  PTRG’s use of the test in their pharmacogenetic research will help provide a better understanding of drug responses based on genetic variation, and ensure the administration of right drug for the right patient at the right dose.

Pharmacogenetics is the study of how DNA sequence variation can influence the clinical response to drug therapy. Pharmacogenetics has the potential to better predict a patient’s outcome, including individuals who will better respond to drugs and others that may develop an adverse event.

The way that a person responds to a drug, either positively or negatively, is a complex trait which is influenced by many different genes. Pharmacogenetics is a science that examines how an individual's genetic makeup affects their response to drugs, such as predicting whether a patient will have a good response to a drug, a bad response to a drug, or no response at all. Thus, pharmacogenetics can make current drugs safer and more effective by targeting patients who will benefit from them most.