Monash University today will launch an end-to-end, cross-disciplinary centre to drive novel psychiatric drug discovery, as well as new approaches to neuromedicine-assisted psychotherapies, for the treatment of mental health disorders.
The development of novel, safe and effective treatments for targeted mental health disorders has remained stagnant for more than 50 years, highlighting the urgent need for a new way forward.
The Neuromedicines Discovery Centre (NDC), led by Monash’s Professor Arthur Christopoulos, will bring together the combined expertise and resources of world-leading researchers from Monash University and collaborators from the University of Melbourne and The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, to propel new treatments for mental ill health spanning the entire medicines development pipeline, from drug discovery and optimisation, to clinical trials, new healthcare guidelines and into the public policy arena.
The NDC’s research is focused on finding better treatments for common psychiatric illnesses, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety, and substance use disorders.
Christopoulos, who is also Dean of the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, said the past decade has seen a revival of interest in the potential of psychedelics such as psilocybin, and related drugs such as MDMA, as fast-acting and potentially more effective therapeutics when delivered in conjunction with supportive psychological therapy, than existing treatments.
“However, whilst these drugs have the potential to revolutionise mental healthcare, progress has only recently started to accelerate, due in part to the limited resources invested in research, and the legal restrictions that have constrained the use of psychedelic medicines,” he said.
“The NDC will create a step-change in the field by taking a multi-disciplinary approach to the problem and working at scale, in a carefully coordinated and scientifically rigorous manner, drawing upon the resources of world-leading research universities and institutes.”
NDC deputy director Professor Chris Langmead added: “Although our initial focus will be on psychedelic-assisted psychotherapies, the depth and critical mass of cross-disciplinary expertise assembled under the Centre’s banner – together with our network of collaborators – has the potential to rapidly expand the pharmacological repertoire of totally new classes of safer and more effective psychiatric medicines.”
Monash University president and vice-chancellor Professor Margaret Gardner AC said by combining the capabilities from across Monash and its expert collaborators, the NDC offers “a globally unprecedented end-to-end capability, from bench to bedside (and back), and into the community”.
“Our world-leading researchers across psychiatry, psychology, pharmacology, medicinal chemistry, drug discovery and policy development are working to stimulate innovation in treatments for mental illness, bringing hope to those for whom current treatments are only partially effective or don’t work at all,” Gardner said.
The Centre will involve researchers from Monash’s Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (MIPS), the Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health and BehaviourWorks Australia, along with collaborations with the University of Melbourne’s Department of Psychiatry, Phoenix Australia, the Melbourne Neuropsychiatry Centre and the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health.
Monash University added that it would like to acknowledge Mind Medicines Australia’s advocacy over many years for the establishment of a research centre focusing on psychedelic-assisted therapies.