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Scripps Florida Team Awarded $3.4M to Develop Treatments for Addiction, Mood Disorders

JUPITER, FL – March 31, 2016 – A team from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) and the University of North Carolina (UNC) has been awarded $3.4 million from the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop novel therapeutics for the treatment of addiction and mood disorders.

Laura Bohn, a TSRI professor, is principal investigator of the project, which involves a collaboration with Jeff Aubé, a chemistry professor at UNC’s Eshelman School of Pharmacy.

During the first year of the five-year funding period, TSRI will receive approximately $472,000, with UNC receiving approximately $249,000. 

Bohn, who has been a pioneer in the development of pain therapies, will continue to focus on the kappa opioid receptor, which helps regulate the release of dopamine—a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in drug addiction. Drugs of abuse often cause the brain to release large amounts of dopamine, flooding the brain’s reward system and reinforcing the addictive cycle.

“Chronic drug abuse, addiction and depression lead to changes in dopamine-related structures in the brain,” Bohn said. “The kappa opioid receptor may offer a way to fine-tune dopamine signaling in patients who suffer from addiction or depression. This grant will help us develop new chemical means to regulate this receptor and create new drugs for the treatment of addiction and mood disorders.”

The kappa opioid receptor reacts to signals that originate independently from multiple biological pathways, so many drugs targeting it produce unwanted side effects such as sedation. The new research looks for potent new compounds that minimize such side effects.

Bohn said she hopes to advance these compounds to clinical development over the next several years.

The number of the grant is 2R01DA031927.

About The Scripps Research Institute

The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) is one of the world's largest independent, not-for-profit organizations focusing on research in the biomedical sciences. TSRI is internationally recognized for its contributions to science and health, including its role in laying the foundation for new treatments for cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, hemophilia, and other diseases. An institution that evolved from the Scripps Metabolic Clinic founded by philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps in 1924, the institute now employs more than 2,500 people on its campuses in La Jolla, CA, and Jupiter, FL, where its renowned scientists—including two Nobel laureates and 20 members of the National Academy of Science, Engineering or Medicine—work toward their next discoveries. The institute's graduate program, which awards PhD degrees in biology and chemistry, ranks among the top ten of its kind in the nation. For more information, see www.scripps.edu.

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Laura Bohn is a professor at the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute. (High-res image)


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