July 27, 2009
Marquette researchers receive $1.4 million grant to develop novel compounds for the treatment of cocaine addiction
A team of three professors in Marquette University’s College of Health Sciences received a two-year, $1.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study and develop novel compounds for the treatment of cocaine addiction. The research team comprises associate professors of biomedical sciences Drs. David Baker, John Mantsch and Douglas Lobner. The funding was issued under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
According to the researchers, addiction to stimulants like cocaine is marked by a transition in drug consumption from casual or recreational use to a more compulsive, excessive pattern caused by a change in brain functioning. The team will work to pinpoint this mechanism and target it using novel pharmacological agents capable of inhibiting the addictive process. In particular, they are interested in the regulation of a specific chemical neurotransmitter known as glutamate that mediates information transfer between neurons.
“We expect to develop novel chemical entities that are both potent and effective in targeting these specific chemical exchanges in the brain,” Baker said. “Ultimately, our hope is that these compounds will be effective in treating cocaine addiction.”
The Marquette researchers will collaborate with professors at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee (Dr. James Cook), University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill (Dr. Rita Fuchs Lokensgard) and the Stanford Research Institute (Dr. Lalitha Iyer).
Baker and Mantsch have collaborated with Cook on another venture, Promentis Pharmaceuticals, which is developing novel compounds for the treatment of schizophrenia. (Marquette University holds an equity interest in Promentis Pharmaceuticals, Inc., as part of its agreement with Promentis to license intellectual property owned by the University to Promentis. In addition, the University is the recipient of a subaward with respect to research by David Baker, Ph.D., which involves the subject matter of the license agreement, and the University has provided certain facilities for the use of Promentis consultants in connection with this research.)
“The Department of Biomedical Sciences at Marquette is playing a key role in important neuroscience research, particularly in the area of addiction,” said Dr. William Cullinan, dean of the College of Health Sciences at Marquette University. “This grant represents another major step forward in continuing our efforts toward finding effective treatments for a spectrum of addictive processes.”
“Addiction to cocaine and other illicit drugs is estimated to cost our society $181 billion, which equates to $603 per U.S. citizen. The cost of addiction can be dramatically lowered through the use of treatments; unfortunately, many drugs of abuse, including cocaine, lack a single approved pharmacotherapy,” added Baker.