January 26, 2004

Partnership to aid depression-drug development

By Holly Korschun

Through a unique partnership among academia, industry and government, a team of scientists from the School of Medicine, Glaxo-Smith-Kline (GSK) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) will work together to accelerate the development of drugs to treat depression and other mood disorders. The new venture, funded through a     $4.9 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is one of three new NIH-supported National Cooperative Drug Discovery Groups.

The "Emory-GSK-NIMH Collaborative Mood Disorders Initiative" will join the expertise of three complementary research groups: the Emory Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, the Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program at NIMH and the Center for Excellence for Drug Discovery in Psychiatry at GSK. The two major goals of the new venture will be the development of innovative models for basic and clinical research in mood disorders, and the intensive scrutiny of novel GSK antidepressant candidates in pre-clinical and clinical studies.

Scientists at NIMH's laboratories in Bethesda, Md., will develop clinical models to assess novel antidepressants. Emory faculty, including Michael Davis, Woodruff Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and Andrew Miller, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, will develop pre-clinical models of fear, anxiety and depression. In collaboration with scientists at GSK, they will test novel antidepressant candidates already under development by the pharmaceutical company as well as newly discovered candidates.

"By joining Emory's longstanding and groundbreaking research programs in depression and mood disorders with the highly successful programs at NIMH and the novel drug-development program at GlaxoSmithKline, we hope to better serve the millions of patients worldwide who suffer from these debilitating conditions," said Charles Nemeroff, Reunette W. Harris Professor and chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, who will serve as principal investigator of the new center. Clinton Kilts, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and vice chair for research, will serve as associate director.

"This exciting program is an ideal example of a scientific collaboration among diverse laboratories and distinct research enterprises that can potentially lead to the rapid development of new drugs that are of tremendous benefit to patients," said Emiliangelo Ratti, senior vice president and head of the GSK drug discovery center.

The NIH National Cooperative Drug Discovery Program was created to facilitate innovative drug discovery, the development of pharmacologic tools for basic and clinical research, and the development and validation of models for evaluating novel therapeutics.

The partnership among academic research centers, the NIH and industry is an example of the "research teams of the future" outlined by NIH in its recently released road map for encouraging more streamlined progression of effective clinical tools and pharmaceuticals from the laboratory to the marketplace and patient care. The new paradigm for conducting medical research also helps fulfill an NIH goal of advancing the development of rationally designed drugs for mental disorders and drug addiction.