OSU professor develops a better anti-depressant

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Articles - March 2010
Sunday, February 14, 2010

nexttest2In 2006, Oregon State University professor Jim White was deconstructing Cymbalta, a popular anti-depressant, when he discovered a hole in its molecular skeleton. White saw that as his opening for creating a new, more effective anti-depressant. Low levels of serotonin and norepinephrine — the neurotransmitters in the brain responsible for moods — cause depression. Ideally, anti-depressants stop serotonin and norepinephrine from leaving the brain and entering the blood stream. “To get the best effects, you need to have a balance of these two,” White says. “That hasn’t been achieved with any of the known anti-depressants.” His new compound showed strong interactions with both neurotransmitters when tested artificially and with rats. It could avoid common side effects and work more quickly than current drugs. “Our compound … is closer to the ‘holy grail’ of a perfectly balanced anti-depressant,” White says. He won’t know how effective the drug is until it’s tested on patients, but White and co-inventor and consultant David Wong are seeking a commercial partner to invest and develop the drug. White hopes the drug will be cheaper than other anti-depressants, or even generic versions. That, of course, depends on business, not chemistry.

AMANDA WALDROUPE
 

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