Patent awarded for new class of drugs to treat neuropsychiatric disorders

| Written by jmoore
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A team of researchers at SBP, in collaboration with Brain Cells, Inc., has been awarded a patent for a novel class of drugs that may treat depression faster than the antidepressants prescribed today.

The drugs are specific types of benzodiazepinones that make neurons less excitable by decreasing activation of a specific type of receptor for glutamate, the main neurotransmitter in the brain.

SBP’s research team, led by Nicholas Cosford, Ph.D., was inspired by the rapid effectiveness of ketamine, an anesthetic that induces a trance-like state. (Ketamine is not chemically related to the drugs under the Cosford team’s patent.) Ketamine has been shown to alleviate symptoms of depression within hours, and its effects last up to a week. However, ketamine has many serious adverse effects, so it’s not a feasible treatment for most people with depression.

While ketamine binds a type of glutamate receptor found in many parts of the brain called the NMDA receptor, there are other glutamate receptors called metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) that have much more selective effects. By focusing on a subset of these receptors, the scientists hope to treat depression without inducing ketamine’s many other effects.

The patent is titled “Novel benzodiazepinones as modulators of metabotropic glutamate receptor functions and neurological uses thereof.” These drugs may also be useful for treating other neuropsychiatric conditions, including memory impairments and anxiety disorders.

Other SBP-affiliated inventors named on the patent are Robert Ardecky, associate director of the Conrad Prebys Center for Chemical Genomics, and Jiwen Zou, a scientist also at the Prebys Center.

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