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PsychoGenics – Phenotypic Drug Discovery and Preclinical CRO

Aug. 22, 2022 · Health Professional Radio

Mark Varney, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer of PsychoGenics, an AI-enabled phenotypic drug discovery and preclinical contract research organization (CRO) discusses how they are helping companies discover the next generation of treatments for severely disabling central nervous system (CNS) and orphan disorders and reduce the attrition rate in clinical development. He also talks about the challenges in CNS drug discovery, clinical trials, and the advantage of phenotypic drug discovery approaches in mental illness. 

PsychoGenics has industrialized phenotypic drug discovery with its high-throughput, artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled SmartCube platform. Each mouse in a SmartCube is monitored by three cameras that generate 500,000 data points per animal per session. Using computer vision, the platform extracts 2,600 behaviors per session to show how the mice respond to changes in their environment after taking the compound being studied. The platform can study the effects of hundreds of compounds every week. 


Dr. Varney received his Ph.D. and post-doctoral training in Pharmacology from Oxford University, UK. He is Chief Scientific Officer of PsychoGenics, a preclinical CNS service company engaged in psychiatric drug discovery. Dr. Varney has more than 30 years of experience in drug discovery, clinical development and executive leadership positions in the biotech and pharmaceutical industry. He co-founded Neurolixis and served as CEO for 8 years and was CSO and/or CEO of Cortex Pharmaceuticals for 6 years. Prior to joining Cortex, Dr. Varney held senior level positions at Sepracor, Inc. (now Sunovion), where he was Vice President of Discovery, and at Bionomics, Ltd., where he was Vice President of Drug Discovery. Dr. Varney held positions of increasing responsibilities over his six-year tenure at SIBIA Neuroscience Inc., including his most recent position as Director of Neuropharmacology. Upon the acquisition of SIBIA by Merck, Inc in 1999, he was appointed a Director at Merck’s San Diego facility. Dr. Varney’s career has focused on drug discovery and clinical programs for treating schizophrenia, depression, cognitive disorders, anxiety, pain, epilepsy and insomnia. He has been successful in developing drug candidates in several of these disease areas and has published over 75 peer-reviewed scientific papers and filed numerous patent applications relating to new chemical entities and methods of use.