Behavioral Diagnostics Awarded Grant to Commercialize a Precision Medicine Test for Guiding Smoking Therapy


August 2016: Behavioral Diagnostics (BD) LLC is pleased to announce that the National Institutes of Health has awarded it the first installment of a $900,000 project to develop a quantitative test for smoking that uses saliva DNA. Smoking is the largest preventable cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States. Each year, smoking causes the death of 500,000 Americans and  inflicts nearly $300 billion of economic damages on the United States. The new saliva DNA-based test will diminish these damages by allowing precision medicine-based approaches, including incentive-based methods, to be routinely used in all health care settings, including telemedicine, for those with addictive disorders. This saliva based smoking test allows sensitive quantitative measurements of cigarette consumption to guide smoking cessation and prevention efforts while avoiding the costs and discomfort of a blood draw.  In addition, the test will enable employers and accountable care organizations to cheaply assess and minimize potential health-care costs from prospective employees and clients.


BD is an Iowa City based biotechnology company ( founded in 2009 by Robert Philibert MD PhD, a Professor of Psychiatry and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Iowa. BD’s primary focus is the development of DNA based epigenetic biomarkers for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of substance use and substance use related illnesses, such as depression, for the medical and civil markets.   However, BD’s impressive portfolio of intellectual property includes the rights to the epigenetic assessments for a wide variety of behavioral and non-behavioral health disorders. Dr. Tracy Gunter, a collaborator on the project who is a nationally known forensic psychiatrist and an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Indiana University states “In order for research and policy in substance use disorders to move forward, we need ways to objectively assess risk for the development of these disorders, to measure acute and lifetime exposure, and to monitor recovery. Trying to use self-report of substance use to measure these behaviors frequently leaves us chasing the disorders rather than treating them.”


This most recent award comes only two months after the receipt of a $1.4 million award from the National Institutes of Health to develop a blood-based test for the quantification of heavy alcohol consumption. BD expects that its initial epigenetic offering, which will measure smoking consumption using DNA from whole blood, will be available for the research market in October of this year with first commercial implementation early next spring.  Over the next several years, both the smoking and alcohol tests will be submitted to the Food and Drug Administration for introduction to the clinical diagnostic market.


To obtain further information about the saliva DNA based test or related matters, email BD at or call 319-621-5899.