GlaxoSmithKline anti-smoking drug combats addictive cravings

One of GlaxoSmithKline's old neuroscience programs is getting a second life in the clinic. Investigators for Aptuit, which stepped in to take over the pharma giant's big neuroscience research center in Verona, Italy, in 2010 have just laid out new animal and early-stage human trial results demonstrating that GSK598809 successfully blocks a dopamine receptor, interrupting a key chemical flood in the brain linked to tobacco addiction. And the investigators say the drug, now in Phase I, has a solid future as a prospective new therapy for smokers hooked on the habit.

The theory behind the program is simple. Nicotine triggers the release of dopamine in the brain. Reuters reports that after blocking D3 receptors in primates the investigators used brain imaging to prove that the drug was hitting the target, a key step needed to push this into larger human studies in an effort to find new ways to kill the craving for tobacco--a condition shared by a billion smokers around the world.

"This is the first time with this class of drugs that we have had signals of efficacy in humans," Manolo Mugnaini, a researcher at the Aptuit Centre for Drug Discovery and Development, tells Reuters. "And what is more important about this work is that we have provided a method that can be used to take this class of compounds from pre-clinical trials to full human trials."

GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) had originally intended to shut down the Verona site as it shuttered certain elements of its work on neuroscience, an often frustrating field for drug developers. Aptuit saved the site and conserved the R&D effort when it stepped in to acquire it, taking on some work for the pharma giant in the process.

- here's the story from Reuters