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Drug discovery platform may provide new options for treating mental health illnesses

October 15, 2019

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - An estimated 46.6 million U.S. adults struggle with mental illnesses, such as anxiety disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. About half of millennials and 75% of Gen-Zers report having quit jobs for mental health reasons.

Now, Purdue University scientists have created a platform focused on finding new medication options for people dealing with mental illnesses. The Computational Analysis of Novel Drug Opportunities (CANDO) drug discovery platform is designed to predict the effectiveness of certain psychoactive drugs, which act primarily upon the central nervous system. Details about the platform are published in the Sept. 11 edition of Scientific Reports.

"One of the areas we are looking at with the platform is the use of non-addictive cannabis-based drugs that may help people with mental illness," said Gaurav Chopra, an assistant professor of analytical and physical chemistry in Purdue's College of Science, who led the creation of the platform. "Our approach is unique because we look at compound interactions with the entire proteome, rather than the traditional approach of focusing on the interaction with just one target or just by looking at the structure of the drug."

The CANDO drug discovery platform analyzes how a drug may work for a certain mental illnesses, based on a collective comparison with all other drugs already approved to treat those same conditions or symptoms of the underlying disease. The platform also looks for signature compound interactions with proteins that are similar in the proposed drugs with those already being used to treat people.

"Our goal with this platform is mapping potential uses for selected drugs to serve as a starting point to ignite further research into the once forbidden field of mental illnesses," Chopra said. "Our work on compound interactions of all known psychoactive substances provides a resource to further verify the use of selected psychoactives, identify mechanisms of action and suggest relationships between different mental health indications. This will enhance research in drug discovery for several mental health conditions as well as help with identifying mechanisms for eventual treatment of indications such as pain and substance use disorder."
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Chopra and his team have worked with the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization on patents for various technologies. For more information on licensing a Purdue innovation, contact the Office of Technology Commercialization at otcip@prf.org.

Chopra's lab is located in the Purdue Institute for Drug Discovery. More information about the lab's work is available at https://github.com/chopralab/candiy_fun. He is a member of Purdue Institute for Integrative Neuroscience, the Integrative Data Science Initiative, Bindley Bioscience Center, Purdue Center for Cancer Research and Purdue Institute of Inflammation, Immunology and Infectious Disease.

About Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization

The Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization operates one of the most comprehensive technology transfer programs among leading research universities in the U.S. Services provided by this office support the economic development initiatives of Purdue University and benefit the university's academic activities through commercializing, licensing and protecting Purdue intellectual property. The office is managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, which received the 2016 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Award for Innovation from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. The Purdue Research Foundation is a private, nonprofit foundation created to advance the mission of Purdue University. Visit the Office of Technology Commercialization to learn more. For more information about funding and investment opportunities in startups based on a Purdue innovation, contact the Purdue Foundry at foundry@prf.org.

Writer: Chris Adam, 765-588-3341, cladam@prf.org

Source: Gaurav Chopra, gchopra@purdue.edu

Purdue University

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