- News Home
12 December 2013 1:00 pm ,
Vol. 342 ,
Stefan Behnisch has won awards for designing science labs and other buildings that are smart, sustainable, and...
The iconic 125-year-old Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton near San Jose, California, is facing the threat of closure...
Recent results from the Curiosity Mars rover have helped scientists formulate a plan for the next phase of its mission...
A new, remarkably powerful drug that cripples the hepatitis C virus (HCV) came to market last week, but it sells for $...
In pretoothbrush populations, gumlines would often be marred by a thick, visible crust of calcium phosphate, food...
Evolutionary biologists have long studied how the Mexican tetra, a drab fish that lives in rivers and creeks but has...
Victorian astronomers spent countless hours laboriously charting the positions of stars in the sky. Such sky mapping,...
In an ambitious project to study 1000 years of sickness and health, researchers are excavating the graveyard of the now...
- 12 December 2013 1:00 pm , Vol. 342 , #6164
- About Us
This Is Your Brain Off Drugs: Why Pharma May Be Cooling on Psychiatry Drugs
28 July 2010 1:03 pm
Earlier this year, pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca announced it was ceasing drug-discovery research for psychiatric disorders such as depression and schizophrenia. The move, along with cutbacks at other companies, has raised concerns about where the next generation of neuropsychiatric drugs will come from—see this Friday's issue of Science for a feature article exploring this topic.
Yesterday, ScienceInsider spoke with neuroscientist Menelas Pangalos, who in May took over as AstraZeneca's head of drug-discovery research and early development. His comments have been edited for brevity.
Q: What do the recent changes mean for neuroscience research at AstraZeneca?
M.P.: Basically, from a research perspective, we're pulling out of the psychiatry space. We're still very much focused on neurology, so Alzheimer's disease, pain, cognition, ... those areas are still very active.
Q: What makes research on psychiatric drugs less attractive?
M.P.: Our understanding of disease pathophysiology is still relatively in its infancy.
These are complex and heterogeneous disorders. Also, the size and robustness of the clinical trials made it a less attractive area for us to be in compared to other areas we were working in. There has to be a much better alignment between preclinical and clinical work.
Q: How so?
M.P.: In neurology, if you take stroke as an example, preclinical models of stroke tend to be occlusion of the middle cerebral artery, which causes ischemic damage in the brain of a rodent or nonhuman primate that mirrors fairly well what happens in the human situation.
When you start getting into psychiatry, we have tail suspension assays, we have forced swim assays, we have learned helplessness assays ... none of which have been developed through a detailed understanding of the pathophysiology. [In these tests, researchers measure how long it takes a rodent to stop struggling after being suspended by its tail or placed in a pool of liquid; giving up is presumed to be a rodent version of despair.]
Q: Aside from better animal models, what else is needed?
M.P.: We need better clinical development. We need to be able to conduct better clinical trials and understand which patients are most likely to benefit from our drugs.
Q: Are there any models out there for how to do that?
M.P.: The stuff that's been happening with ADNI [the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, funded by industry and the National Institutes of Health] is very important. Groups of academics and pharmaceutical scientists and clinicians are getting together and really trying to understand how to measure the disease, what the biomarkers might be, how it progresses, how many patients you need [in a clinical trial]. Those are the sorts of things that are really helping us in the industry and can ultimately make drug development more effective. ADNI has been a really great example of a precompetitive public-private partnership. We haven't had that yet in psychiatry.