World Mental Health Day 2023: Drug discovery breakthroughs

World Mental Health Day

Over recent months, there have been a number of ground-breaking discoveries in drug discovery for mental health conditions.

A new class of antidepressants

In July 2023, AlzeCure Pharma published the results of a preclinical study supporting the antidepressive effects ACD856, the first in a new class of antidepressants.

The article in the journal Psychopharmacology focuses on new data showing that ACD856, the lead clinical drug candidate in the NeuroRestore platform, exhibits antidepressant effects in various preclinical models.

The drug works by stimulating specific signalling pathways in the central nervous system known as neurotrophins, the most well-known being NGF (Nerve Growth Factor) and BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor).

Read more: Preclinical study proves antidepressant effects of drug

Psychedelic-based drug options

Later the same month, Cybin announced it had completed dosing in Cohort 5 of a Phase II trial evaluating CYB003, an investigational proprietary deuterated analog of psilocybin for the potential treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD).

The dosing was completed with no serious adverse events or other adverse events that may preclude continued dosing. The completed Cohorts 4 and 5 evaluated two 12mg doses of CYB003, and recruitment is underway to commence dosing for Cohort 6, the final cohort in the Phase II portion of the study.

Read more: Another milestone achieved in major depressive disorder trial

More accessible treatment

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Sage Therapeutics’ Zurzuvae (zuranolone) in August, making it the first oral medication indicated to treat postpartum depression (PPD) in adults.

Treatment for PPD was previously only available as an IV injection given by a health care provider in certain health care facilities.

The efficacy of Zurzuvae was demonstrated in two randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicentre studies.

Read more: First oral drug for postpartum depression approved in US

The role of genetics

In October, scientists discovered the link between gene expression, DNA methylation, and brain structural changes in depression, revealing new potential therapeutic targets.

By analysing gene interactions in mice subjected to behavioural tests, the researchers from Korea University Anam Hospital, Konkuk University, and Sahmyook University identified 141 genes primarily linked to immune responses correlating with depressive behaviours.

Parallel findings in humans underscored the involvement of interferon-related genes in major depressive disorder.

Read more: Researchers uncover molecular pathways underlying depression

Diana Spencer, Senior Digital Content Editor, Drug Discovery World

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