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Dr. Wolfgang Weber-Fahr

SFB 1158: B 08 - Multiscale analysis of structural plasticity in cortical circuits. 07/2019-06/2023.

Meyer-Lindenberg A. EU - Europäische Union 115008: IMI JU NEWMEDS: Novel Methods Leading to New Medications in Depression and Schizophrenia. 09/2009-08/2014.

Despite remarkable advances in molecular and imaging technologies and nearly 15,000 articles on schizophrenia and depression (S&D) every year, there have been few truly innovative new chemical entities (NCEs) which have made it to the clinic. While there has been a tremendous explosion of new knowledge: dozens of single-nucleotide polymorphisms linked to disease, hundreds of new molecules and pathways identified, numerous imaging findings differentiating patients from controls, yet, it has been hard to take these findings from the bench to the clinic. We think there are three major bottlenecks that are holding the field back: i) a lack of pathophysiologically-accurate animal models guiding the drug discovery of NCEs; ii) a lack of tools and tests in healthy volunteers that can provide early indication of efficacy; and iii) the reliance of clinical trials on symptom-based DSM-categories which inevitably lead to biologically heterogeneous groups of patients. To overcome these limitations, we have brought together a consortium of six leading European and an Israeli academic institution (which bring expertise in animal models, genetics, functional MRI and PET imaging, clinical settings and analysis methods) and two SMEs (which bring expertise in high-throughput genetics, transcriptomics and proteomics) who will partner with the dozen EFPIA partners in the NEWMEDS consortium. To specifically target the challenges identified in Call 10, the NEWMEDS consortium will: a) develop animal models that focus on reliable cross-species endophenotypes (e.g., cognitive function, electrophysiology) and use crossspecies methods (small-animal MRI, EEG and micro-PET) to bring animal models closer to clinical endpoints; b) validate the use of fMRI-based paradigms as early and surrogate markers for efficacy; and to combine this with PET approaches for measuring changes in endogenous transmitters – thus providing new methods that can be implemented in small Phase 1B studies in healthy volunteers to provide guidance for drug development; and c) identify pharmacogenetic biomarkers that can be used to stratify patients within an umbrella DSM-diagnosis, thus allowing for targeted clinical trials, individualized treatment and back-translation of subgroup-specific biomarkers into preclinical drug discovery. To increase the chance of a breakthrough we will implement new analytical approaches – the use of support vector machine learning algorithms for image analyses; the use of Bayesian and growth mixture models for more meaningful analyses of clinical trial data. The project will be delivered through a series of integrated workpackages organized in three clusters – preclinical models, imaging methods, and biomarker development as exemplified in Figure 1. Our consortium has achieved its 1:1 in-kind match, indicative of the involvement and commitment of all EFPIA partners. One of Europe’s leading scientific management SMEs (GABO:mi) will facilitate the management of NEWMEDS and a distinguished international Scientific Advisory Board will provide input and guidance. To ensure that we maximally integrate with other ongoing international initiatives, we have commitments of collaborations from several international consortia and experts (e.g. MATRICS, NIH Biomarkers Consortium). By the end of the 5 year project we expect to provide ready to use new cross-validated animal models, new fMRI methods with dedicated analysis techniques, new PET radioligands, as well as new genetic and proteomic biomarkers for patient-segmentation or individual response prediction. These tools should provide our EFPIA partners with an added competitive advantage in developing new drugs for S&D.


Zentralinstitut für Seelische Gesundheit (ZI) - https://www.zi-mannheim.de