Part 2 of a series tracking the development of a safer, new PTSD medication
A $3 million NIMH grant places a team of researchers closer to their long-sought-after goal.
By Rachel Skipper:
PBS research scientist Yvonne Lai is well known to our department for her work at the Gill Center for Biomolecular Science. However, she and her collaborators are making waves in the business world with the growth of their startup company, Anagin Inc., a promising pharmaceutical venture located in Indianapolis.
PTSD is a common neurological disorder, affecting seven to eight percent of the population. However, current treatments come with a disturbing list of side effects and do not target the disorder’s underlying neural mechanisms. Tackling this problem has been a long journey for Lai, whose pharmacological research began many years ago. Now, with the help of a new grant, solutions seem closer.
Prior to her arrival at IU, Lai developed a compound that works differently from earlier medications. These earlier medications target the glutamate receptor located at the surface of neurons and block normal as well as pathological glutamate signaling. Rather than blocking glutamate signaling at the receptor, Lai’s compound appears to inhibit the downstream pathway. Thus, the compound prevents detrimental changes in the brain’s neurons, while also bypassing the severe side effects that arise when all glutamate receptor signaling is blocked.
Soon after her arrival at IU, Lai collaborated with PBS professor Andrea Hohmann to explore the compound’s effectiveness in a rodent model of chronic pain. She has since teamed up with IU School of Medicine Associate Dean and Distinguished Professor Anantha Shekhar to test the compound’s effectiveness in a rodent model of PTSD. Given their promising results, Lai and Shekhar founded Anagin, a small start-up company that focuses on novel PTSD treatments.