Wayne State University

Michigan Technology & Research Institute of Ann Arbor to partner with Wayne State University on potential new treatment of depression

DETROIT—The Michigan Technology & Research Institute (MITRI), in Ann Arbor, Mich., and Wayne State University have partnered to organize a drug development company based on several neurosciences research platforms from the university’s Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.

Major depression is a disorder posing significant health problems to a large number of patients worldwide. After cardiovascular disease, depression is considered the second most debilitating disease in the world. “Drug therapies currently on the market for treatment of depression have many shortcomings,” said Dr. Aloke Dutta, professor of pharmaceutical sciences at WSU and inventor of the new technology. “A number of the therapies don’t work in a significant number of patients, and some treatments work at first, but later become ineffective.” 

According to Dutta, currently approved treatments for depression do not address the dopamine component needed to interact with the relevant targets in the brain. The polyfunctional molecules discovered in Dutta’s laboratory interact simultaneously with norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine systems in the brain, and exhibit activity in animal models that indicate antidepressant activity.

“One of the research goals will be to study whether such novel triple uptake inhibitor molecules have more desirable therapeutic profiles as antidepressant agents compared to the current existing drugs and whether their chronic exposure might sustain effectiveness and lower the incidence of side effects,” said Dutta. 

“The WSU technology platforms integrated in this company have great promise to make a difference in the quality of life of patients with depression and to address unmet medical needs in the neurosciences therapeutic area,” said Dr. David Pegg, MITRI Technical Center president. “The senior scientific researchers at MITRI have many years of experience in strategically taking new drugs to the marketplace, and these drugs have helped improve the lives of people with multiple disease conditions including depression, pain, epilepsy, inflammatory conditions, heart disease and cancer.”

“The neuroscience technologies emerging from Dutta’s discoveries have great potential as new treatments for depression, pain, substance abuse and Parkinson’s disease,” said Felix de la Iglesia, M.D., chief enterprise officer of MITRI. “We are impressed by the initial candidate leads and look forward to this collaboration with WSU.”
The MITRI-WSU collaboration is expected to serve as a model for expediting and maturing early university technologies into commercially attractive ventures at a faster and strategic pace of development. Dr. Michael Bleavins, MITRI Laboratory Center president, said, “We view this project as an excellent opportunity to advance promising early-stage academic research and improve the visibility of WSU discovery efforts to the pharmaceutical community.”
“This partnership was organized by Wayne State University’s technology commercialization group in an effort to drive an exciting Michigan technology forward,” said Dr. Randy Ramharack, technology licensing manager at WSU. “This collaboration is an example of a new model for growth in southeast Michigan by partnering with former Pfizer scientists.”
The research is currently funded by the Michigan Universities Commercialization Initiative. Successful completion of the depression project will lead to an investigational new drug application for evaluation by the Food and Drug Administration in the near future.
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Wayne State University is one of the nation’s pre-eminent public research universities in an urban setting, ranking in the top 50 in R & D expenditures of all public universities by the National Science Foundation. Through its multidisciplinary approach to research and education, and its ongoing collaboration with government, industry and other institutions, the university seeks to enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit, state of Michigan and throughout the world. (www.research.wayne.edu)
Michigan Technology and Research Institute is an entrepreneurial organization based in Ann Arbor, Michigan that conducts research and development initiatives. The Institute provides expertise to improve decision making and optimize pharmaceutical development strategies that allow early identification of high-potential drug molecules. The organization has clients in the USA, Europe, and Australia covering a wide array of solutions for the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. (www.mtrinstitute.com)
 For more information, contact Julie O'Connor at 313-577-8845 or julie.oconnor@wayne.edu