Indianapolis Monthly

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS

EVEN FOR THE non-squeamish and otherwise healthy, a blood test can be a fraught event. Is my cholesterol too high? Are my organs functioning properly? Are these results going to change my life? If a group of heavyweight scientists and pharma executives working out of a 10th Street office park succeeds, a new layer could be added to that physical and emotional calculus: concrete biological evidence of your risk for suicide, PTSD, depression, and a host of other mental health conditions.

MindX Sciences, an Indianapolis-based biotech startup, is pitching a product that deals with the mind and body as one. Its app tracks psychological symptoms through a simple questionnaire and then, crucially, combines that data with a revolutionary blood test that its scientists say can reliably—and objectively—detect risk for mental health disorders. Its data is then used to tailor treatment to a patient’s specific needs, in a fashion that would go far beyond what MindX says is the current “19th-century” status quo in psychiatry.

The idea almost seems implausible: How can the complexities of the mind be reduced to a set of numbers printed off the DeskJet in your physician’s back office? Psychiatry is based on skilled, professional interpretations of what are still ultimately subjective descriptions by patients of their feelings. What drives one person to bed with depression for a weekend might drive someone else to a much darker place. Philosophers have wrestled for centuries with what they call the “mind-body problem,” the struggle to identify the point where our biology meets the sui generis emotions and experiences that make up our interior lives. How far can a mere blood test go toward demystifying a problem that has eluded thinkers for almost as long as humans have been able to, well, think?

According to Dr. Alexander Niculescu—the Indiana University psychiatrist and geneticist who cofounded the company, serves as its chairman and CEO, and developed the pathbreaking blood test at the product’s heart—it could cover a pretty fair distance.

“I’m not going to veer toward the philosophical side of things, but biology underpins everything that we do,” Niculescu says. “If you

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