Behavioral Diagnostics Awarded Grant to Commercialize Epigenetic Alcohol Test


May 2016: Behavioral Diagnostics Inc. (BDI) is pleased to announce that the National Institutes of Health has awarded it a $1.4 million grant to complete the initial commercialization of an epigenetic test for the detection of heavy alcohol consumption.  Alcoholism is the second leading preventable cause of death in the United States and costs the American economy nearly $200 billion annually. The new DNA based tests, which cannot be obscured any known means, being developed by BDI will allow clinicians to better detect and treat alcoholism.


BDI 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. BDI’s 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.    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 that “A reliable objective measure of the biologically meaningful dose of substance use could revolutionize how we conceptualize and manage substance use disorders. It could also provide a means for monitoring the recovery process and intervening in early relapse rather than waiting for the person’s life to become out of control. In the current world, individuals with substance use disorders face their own denial and the biases of others when seeking treatment.”


These efforts build upon a set of findings made by Dr. Philibert and his colleague, Dr. Anup Madan, that substance use changes the DNA methylation signature of white blood cells.  These patented findings have been replicated by dozens of research groups from around the world.   One of the new tests using this approach, referred to as Smoke Signature™, allows nearly absolute quantification of smoking, even in its earliest phases, and is being introduced to the research market in collaboration with IBI Scientific, a Dubuque based vendor of scientific products.  BDI expects that the blood based smoking detection test will be available as a direct to consumer test in early 2017 with general clinical introduction of a saliva DNA based test to follow in the fall of 2017.  The alcohol detection test is scheduled to be ready for civil and forensic use in the fall of 2017 as well.


To obtain further information about these products or related matters, email BDI at or call 319-621-5899.