Precision Medicine for The Brain: Using AI-derived Biomarkers to Match Patients with the Right Drug
A Virtual Conversation with with Dr. Amit Etkin, Founder and CEO of Alto Neuroscience
Thursday, March 17, at 7 PM EST on Zoom
Frustrated by the lack of new drugs to treat mental illnesses, Dr. Etkin left Stanford to start the company. He said, “The days of relying on trial-and-error for treating mental health conditions are over. Psychiatry has been poised for disruption for decades, and this partnership represents our collective commitment to bring a vast network of patients access to the care they deserve. The introduction of this first-ever decentralized clinical trial in precision psychiatry broadens our formerly narrow view of drug discovery and development in mental health, allowing us to quickly deploy effective, accessible treatments in a way not previously possible.”
Mental health conditions are driven by unique biological factors and people with the same diagnosis may respond to a given drug differently. Historically, clinical trial design has not adequately accounted for these differences, contributing to a persistent lack of innovation and fundamental failures in psychiatric drug development. In the past 20 years, only one drug that works in a new way has been approved for major depressive disorder and none have been approved for PTSD or addiction.
Alto’s targeted approach leverages brain biomarkers such as behavior, electroencephalogram (EEG) activity, and sleep and activity patterns to identify likely drug responders. These biomarkers are synthesized using AI approaches, which have been validated by Alto to identify people who respond better to a drug versus placebo, or differentially across types of treatment. Many of the biomarkers will be measured directly from remote-deliverable tools such as computerized behavioral tests and wearables, or by using in-home EEGs, increasing patient access and ease of use.
Thomas Insel, M.D., former director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), added, “The work Alto is leading has the potential to be transformative for patients living with mental health disorders who, for too long, have been forced to accept treatments that don’t target the underlying biology of their conditions. The company’s disruptive approach has already generated an innovative pipeline of novel medications, setting the stage for rapid near-term clinical impact.”
About Dr. Amit Etkin
Amit Etkin, MD, PhD, is a trained psychiatrist, neuroscientist and has been on the Stanford faculty since 2010. As a tenured professor, he became an international leader in the neuroscience of psychiatric disorders and their treatments. In recognition of the influence of his ideas and work, Dr. Etkin received the Director’s Pioneer Award, the most competitive and prestigious NIH grant and the first one given in clinical psychiatry.
Dr. Etkin brings broad-based scientific and programmatic leadership and a compelling vision for connecting scientific discoveries to pragmatic clinical and business goals. He has a proven history of success, with publications in high-impact journals, raising extensive public and private funding, and managing a large and diverse team of scientists, clinicians, and engineers towards a shared scientific vision. He received his MD/PhD at Columbia University with Nobel laureate Eric Kandel and completed his psychiatry residency and concurrent postdoc at Stanford University with Alan Schatzberg.
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Thursday, March 17
7 to 8 pm EST