NEWMEDS consortium aims to boost drug discovery in mental illness

By Alexandria Pešić

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Pharmacology

A Lack of animal models and difficulties in proving early clinical efficacy are hampering discovery and development of psychiatric drugs according to new consortium, NEWMEDS.

The group, which includes drug makers Lundbeck, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Roche and Novartis, as well as academic researchers at institutions in Europe and Israel, has been formed to pool resources and address these issues.

So far members have combined data from 67 trials on 11 licensed drugs into a knowledge base that will “quickly translate into new medications” according to Shitij Kapur of the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London.

“NEWMEDS is not only scientifically innovative, but it is also an innovation in creating a cluster of nearly 50 scientists from both sides to work together to achieve a common goal; [the creation of] better, safer and more effective medications, more quickly,” Kapur explained.

This decision to focus on innovation fits with the findings of a July report by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), which highlighted the current lack of new psychiatric drugs in development.

According to PhRMA, although 313 drugs are being developed in the US for psychiatric illness - 90 for depression and 54 for schizophrenia - most are reformulations of existing compounds, or new chemical entities (NCEs) that use existing mechanisms of action.

Animal models

NEWMEDS’ longer term plan is to use the pooled information to develop new animal models using recording and behavioural tests to identify new and effective drugs for a range of conditions, beginning with schizophrenia.

The group will also develop analysis techniques to apply brain imaging to drug development, with a focus on MRI and PET imaging.

Furthermore NEWMEDS plans to examine how recent genetic findings, such as duplication and deletion or changes in genes, can influence the response to various drugs, which may bring researchers a step closer to the “choosing the right drug for the right patient” concept.

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