Pathways to new drug discovery in neuropsychiatry
journal contributionposted on 2012-01-01, 00:00 authored by Michael BerkMichael Berk
There is currently a crisis in drug discovery for neuropsychiatric disorders, with a profound, yet unexpected drought in new drug development across the spectrum. In this commentary, the sources of this dilemma and potential avenues to redress the issue are explored. These include a critical review of diagnostic issues and of selection of participants for clinical trials, and the mechanisms for identifying new drugs and new drug targets. Historically, the vast majority of agents have been discovered serendipitously or have been modifications of existing agents. Serendipitous discoveries, based on astute clinical observation or data mining, remain a valid option, as is illustrated by the suggestion in the paper by Wahlqvist and colleagues that treatment with sulfonylurea and metformin reduces the risk of affective disorder. However, the identification of agents targeting disorder-related biomarkers is currently proving particularly fruitful. There is considerable hope for genetics as a purist, pathophysiologically valid pathway to drug discovery; however, it is unclear whether the science is ready to meet this promise. Fruitful paradigms will require a break from the orthodoxy, and creativity and risk may well be the fingerprints of success.