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Professor develops new chemistry to improve anti-depressant drugs

August 29, 2011

New methods developed in the laboratory of Professor Tomislav Rovis in the Department of Chemistry are expected to improve understanding of the inner workings of commonly used anti-depressant drugs classified as serotonin and norephinephrine reuptake inhibitors or SNRIs.

Tomislav Rovis will lead a new project to explore the chemical makeup of anti-depressant drugsRovis has obtained a small exploratory grant for his research from the Colorado Center for Drug Discovery, which is based in CSU Ventures, the commercialization arm of the Colorado State University Research Foundation. The center, also known as C2D2, was created as part of a state-sponsored initiative to generate economic development based on bioscience research.

Grant to help delve deeper into drug chemistry

The Rovis lab at CSU was awarded the grant to study the application of a new chemistry technology, called “NHC catalysis,” that enables the manufacture of drugs such as those used to treat central nervous system disorders like depression. Notable drugs in this group include Cymbalta and Pristiq – part of a class designated as “chiral” molecules that require highly specialized chemistry.

Rovis and his team will explore using their patent-pending NHC catalyst technology for the manufacture of chiral molecules like Cymbalta and Pristiq.

How they work: Neurotransmitters serotonin and norephinephrine are released at the synapses in nerves in the brain and make their way back to the nerve cells, known as reuptake. SNRIs increase the concentration of the mood affecting neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine by blocking their reuptake.

The research is expected to identify important structural features in the drugs that could lead to reduced side effects or increased potency.

Improving the manufacturing process

“Building on results from our lab at CSU, in which we have demonstrated the ability to manufacture key precursors to these drugs, we seek with the aid of this grant to prove that our technology is capable of finishing the manufacturing process,” Rovis said. “That process will then be leveraged to manufacture several examples of novel chiral molecules that we hope will have superior properties in modulating central nervous system effects or for treatment of pain.

“This research may also reveal that the ‘NHC catalysts’ provide a technological process advantage in the manufacture of currently approved drugs,” Rovis said.

This research could one day lead to new medications or new manufacturing processes for medications.

“Ideally a new drug would be discovered, but that’s not our ultimate role here,” Rovis said. “At the very least, we will have a better understanding of the important structural features of these molecules. We think we are in a position to contribute to this understanding because of the chemistry we’ve developed.”

Contact: Emily Wilmsen
Phone: (970) 491-2336