Public Release: 

Cohen Veterans Bioscience, Broad Institute launch largest study of PTSD genetic biomarkers

Additional alliance with McLean Hospital will create the first brain bank for PTSD and TBI

Cohen Veterans Bioscience

NEW YORK, Jan. 29, 2016 -- Cohen Veterans Bioscience today announced two new collaborative partnership efforts that will provide critical research tools for understanding the underlying neurobiology and genetics of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) with the goal of accelerating the development of first generation diagnostics and treatments.

For the partnership with the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Cohen Veterans Bioscience will contribute funding to support both genotyping of DNA samples to expand knowledge about the genetic influences associated with PTSD and access to extensive genetics expertise available at the Broad Institute. The initiative will include the creation of a PTSD genetics database devoted exclusively to the analysis of tens of thousands of DNA samples collected from more than 30 global research centers. The collaborations share a goal of discovering the first genome wide association for PTSD within a year.

"We look forward to working in partnership with Cohen Veterans Bioscience, leveraging our technologies and the insights of our genomics experts to advance understanding of PTSD, and our ability to diagnose and ultimately treat this debilitating disorder," said Steven Hyman, Director of the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Disease Research at the Broad Institute.

Post-traumatic stress is the most commonly occurring and seriously impairing disorder that occurs after exposure to traumatic events, such as combat, sexual assault, and natural disaster. Among the military, nearly 20 percent of enlisted soldiers -- approximately 300,000 -- who returned from Iraq and Afghanistan have reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress or major depression, according to the RAND Corporation.

"Genetic factors are critical in influencing who develops PTSD," says Magali Haas, MD, PhD, CEO & President of Cohen Veterans Bioscience. "Unlike some other neuro-psychiatric diseases, we do not yet know how genetic variants affect a person's risk for developing PTSD. These data can provide a mechanism to more reliably predict the risk of PTSD in different populations and afford an opportunity for preventive interventions. We are proud to partner with a world-leading genetics research institution like the Broad Institute's Stanley Center to advance the science of PTSD."

In another joint venture, Cohen Veterans Bioscience will partner with McLean Hospital, a Harvard Medical School affiliate, to establish the Cohen Veterans Bioscience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury Brain & Tissue Collection. The first brain and tissue bank to focus on both PTSD and TBI, this special collection will be maintained at McLean's Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center, a national resource for the acquisition, processing, storage, and distribution of postmortem brain tissue to the scientific community, for the purpose of conducting research on the brain.

"This collection is an extraordinary exciting development that will help fill a critical need for the research community worldwide," explains Kerry J. Ressler, MD, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer for McLean Hospital and one of the country's leading researchers on trauma. "Thanks to this new resource, we will be able to study the brains of a diverse population--both military and civilians -- who have experienced PTSD and/or TBI in their lifetime with the ultimate goal of identifying better, more effective methods of treating each of these disorders."

According to Ressler, he and his collaborators have a goal of collecting at least 100 brains from affected individuals and will coordinate closely with the recently launched Leahy-Friedman National PTSD Brain Bank to maximize use of these limited resources.

Traumatic brain injuries have become the signature wound of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with approximately 20 percent of veterans having reported experiencing a TBI. It is also quite prevalent in the civilian population. Each year at least 2.2 million people suffer from a traumatic brain injury in the United States. Of those, 50,000 die and 280,000 require hospital admission, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

The Cohen Bioscience Special Collection will be available to qualified industry and academic center researchers to conduct independent PTSD and TBI research.

###

Cohen Veterans Bioscience

Cohen Veterans Bioscience is a 501(c)3 non-profit research organization dedicated to improving the detection and treatment of PTS and TBI and related co-morbidities through cutting-edge research, so the burden of these conditions may be lessened on service members, veterans, and their families. Through the generosity and support of Steven A. Cohen, we are launching translational research initiatives in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. To ensure the future holds improved care for veterans, we seek to assemble high-dimensional biomarker, biosensor, and phenotypic data to build predictive models of disease and accelerate the time to next generation diagnostics and treatments. More information is available at http://www.cohenveteransbioscience.org and on Twitter.

McLean Hospital

McLean Hospital is the largest psychiatric affiliate of Harvard Medical School and a member of Partners HealthCare. In addition to providing a full continuum of psychiatric clinical care, McLean maintains the largest neuroscience and psychiatry research program of any private psychiatric hospital in the United States. McLean's robust research program is backed by more than $40 million in funding from a variety of sources, including foundations, private contributors, National Institute of Health, United States Department of Defense, and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. For more information about McLean, visit mcleanhospital.org or follow the hospital on Facebook or Twitter.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.