INNOVATORS VS COVID 19
Amid the Pandemic, a Veteran-Led Biotech Startup Charts the Course to Earlier PTSD Diagnosis & Treatment
We talked to Charles Cathlin of TruGenomix on how the firm is reducing the stigma of behavioral health disorders.
Tell us about you, and your career.
Charles Cathlin: I am a former Chief of Staff at the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC), where I provided operational and strategic leadership to support traumatic brain injury clinical research programs across 22 DoD and VA facilities. Prior to this assignment, I served at the FDA/Center for Device and Radiological Health as Chief of the Radiology, Anesthesiology, and Neurology Devices Branch.
I received my BS in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the US Air Force Academy and Master of Public Health from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS). I am also a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University’s Carey Business School Innovate program, established to train biotech entrepreneurs.
I retired as a Captain (O-6) in May 2018, after completing twenty-three years in uniform between the Air Force and the Public Health Service, and earning decorations for my leadership while deployed to the Middle East, Albania, Mozambique, and New York City (9/11).
How does TruGenomix innovate?
Charles Cathlin: We have developed solutions to today’s inadequacies in the diagnosis and treatment of behavioral health disorders like PTSD.
In 2017, inspired by their work at the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center and the US Department of Veterans Affairs, two veterans and a scientist coalesced their visions seeded in service around the urgent need for 21st-century innovation in behavioral healthcare. Drawing upon their decades of experience in biomedical technology, public health, and molecular biology, TruGenomix’s founders took aim at the mental health crisis that results in 21 veteran suicides each day. Partnering with the Illumina Accelerator and scientists from Mount Sinai and the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, TruGenomix developed the first-to-market, patented genomic biomarker assay to identify PTSD risk in 2018.
As a veteran-owned business, TruGenomix’s founding mission of improving the lives of US military service members and veterans remains at its roots. Current, global public health events and an evolving behavioral health landscape have revealed a vast number of people who could benefit from advances in PTSD diagnostics and treatment platforms. Guided by a calling to serve, TruGenomix has expanded its mission to encompass a broader range of populations, including:
● Active-duty U.S. military service members, veterans,
● First responders, healthcare workers, and individuals in high-risk occupations, and
● Trauma-exposed communities at large.
The scope of experience of TruGenomix’s executive team spans nine decades and several fields, including military service, medicine, and federal research and development. These experiences have allowed the team to cultivate timely knowledge of pandemic-era mental health needs and develop deeply unique qualifications to address these needs. The team has garnered numerous awards, ranks, titles, and accomplishments, ranging from captain to engineer, Purple Heart recipient to the medical doctor, virologist and immunologist, 9/11 responder to Iraq War veteran, and Ph.D. to Homeland Security Public Health Officer amid the threats of SARS and anthrax.
Ours is a mission seeded in service: we’re working to reduce suffering and save lives through objective and more effective behavioral healthcare.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Charles Cathlin: COVID-19 has created a surge of mental and behavioral health ramifications, and TruGenomix has expanded its mission to include first responders, healthcare workers, people in high-risk occupations, and trauma-exposed communities at large. This surge has also resulted in increased awareness of the urgent need for bringing behavioral healthcare into the 21st century using precision medicine, as well as a wave of funding for healthcare startups (see this Financial Times article featuring TruGenomix)
While still keenly focused on the mental health repercussions from COVID-19 and the immense work that lies ahead to bring an earlier, more effective diagnosis for those who develop PTSD amid this pandemic, we’re also proud to be able to help combat this virus by supporting educators and students with timely access to testing.
Who are your competitors?
Charles Cathlin: We are leading the charge. Partnering with the Illumina Accelerator and scientists from Mount Sinai and the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, TruGenomix developed the first-to-market, patented genomic biomarker assay to identify PTSD risk in 2018.
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