VANCOUVER, British Columbia, March 13, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- For people with mental health conditions, finding a medication that works without causing severe side effects is often a matter of trial-and-error. This can contribute to a lower adherence to treatment regimens and poorer health, as well as increased costs to the health care system.

Pharmacogenomics can improve a person’s health by helping them know ahead of time whether a drug is likely to be an effective treatment and be safe for them to take without triggering an adverse reaction. This is one of the strongest examples to show how precision health holds real potential to end the “trial-and-error” approach to therapy.

However, there are still many questions to be answered before there can be wider adoption of pharmacogenomic testing in a clinical setting. In a new $1.5 million project, supported by funding from Genome BC, Genome Canada and the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, University of British Columbia researchers, Dr. Stirling Bryan and Dr. Jehannine Austin, are investigating if pharmacogenomic testing should be routinely used in BC for people with depression.

“Our goal is to gather the necessary information to assess the improvement in patient health, as well as whether the testing is good value for money for the health system,” said Dr. Jehannine Austin. “The multidisciplinary team we have assembled includes people with diverse backgrounds and skills, including patient partners with lived experiences.”

The work will involve reviewing existing studies to learn from the research of others and collecting BC specific information from the records kept by the health care system. The team will also apply extensive stakeholder engagement, talking to patients, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, counsellors, and others providing care for patients with mental health conditions in BC.

“We want to gain insight into the typical experiences of patients,” said Dr. Stirling Bryan. “This information will be used in a ‘simulation model’, where we can count the health benefits to patients and the costs of changing practice to include routine use of pharmacogenomics testing for depression.”

“Pharmacogenomics shows significant potential for delivering precision health care,” said Dr. Ellie Griffith, Sector Director, Health at Genome BC. “If the findings indicate that pharmacogenomics testing provides value to both patients and the health care system, this information could be used to bring a positive change to how we care for patients with depression in BC.”

“MSFHR is committed to partnering on strategic initiatives enabling BC researchers to generate and apply much needed research evidence in areas of high priority to our province’s health system,” says Dr. Bev Holmes, President and CEO, Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research.

Genome British Columbia leads genomics innovation on Canada’s West Coast and facilitates the integration of genomics into society. A recognized catalyst for government and industry, Genome BC invests in research, entrepreneurship and commercialization in life sciences to address challenges in key sectors such as health, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture, agrifood, energy, mining and environment. Genome BC partners with many national and international public and private funding organizations to drive BC’s bioeconomy.

Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR), funded by the Province of British Columbia, is BC's health research funding agency. MSFHR helps develop, retain and recruit the talented people whose research improves the health of British Columbians, addresses health system priorities, creates jobs and adds to the knowledge economy. Learn more at

Genome Canada is a not-for-profit organization that acts as a catalyst for developing and applying genomics and genomic-based technologies, to create economic and social benefits for Canadians. Genome Canada connects ideas and people across public and private sectors to find new uses for genomics, invests in large-scale science and technology to fuel innovation, and translates discoveries into applications and solutions across key sectors of national importance, including health, agriculture, forestry, fisheries & aquaculture, energy, mining, and the environment.


Brad Lyle
Communications Manager
Genome BC
Mobile: 778-999-8195
@genomebc      #genomebc

A photo accompanying this announcement is available at