Novel antidepressant targets brain receptors responsible for learning and memory

Published on December 7, 2012 at 11:16 AM · No Comments

Drug fights hard-to-treat depression by targeting brain receptors in a new way

A first-of-its-kind antidepressant drug discovered by a Northwestern University professor and now tested on adults who have failed other antidepressant therapies has been shown to alleviate symptoms within hours, have good safety and produce positive effects that last for about seven days from a single dose.

The novel therapeutic targets brain receptors responsible for learning and memory -- a very different approach from existing antidepressants. The new drug and others like it also could be helpful in treating other neurological conditions, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety and Alzheimer's disease.

The results of the phase IIa clinical trial were presented today (Dec. 6) at the 51st Annual Meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology in Hollywood, Fla.

Also this week, a paper reporting some of the background scientific research that provided the foundation for the clinical development of GLYX-13 was published by the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

The compound, called GLYX-13, is the result of more than two decades of work by Joseph Moskal, research professor of biomedical engineering at Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science and director of the University's Falk Center for Molecular Therapeutics.

"Our study showed that this compound is capable of eliciting a robust and rapid antidepressant effect without the typical side effects seen with other drugs that also modulate the NMDA receptor," said Moskal, who is founder and chief scientific officer of the Evanston-based biotechnology company Naurex Inc., which conducted the clinical study.

GLYX-13 works by modulating the NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptor in the brain, as do current NMDA receptor antagonists such as ketamine, but GLYX-13 does not have their serious and limiting side effects, such as hallucinations and schizophrenia-like effects. (An antagonist is a substance that inhibits the physiological action of another.)

Moskal and his team have figured out a new way to target the NMDA receptors that maintains the positive antidepressant properties while eliminating the negative side effects.

In clinical trials administered at 12 sites across the country, a single dose of GLYX-13 resulted in significant reductions in depression symptoms among subjects who had shown little improvement with previous drugs. (Subjects had failed treatment with one or more antidepressant agents.)

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