Friday, October 23, 2009

Targeting Nicotinic Receptors and Profits

If there was any doubt that nicotine is truly a wonder drug, the existence and activities of the company Targacept should lay these doubts to rest.

Targacept, Inc. is a biopharmaceutical company engaged in the design, discovery and development of NNR Therapeutics(TM), a new class of drugs for the treatment of multiple diseases and disorders of the central nervous system. Our NNR Therapeutics selectively target neuronal nicotinic receptors, or NNRs. NNRs are found on nerve cells throughout the nervous system and serve as key regulators of nervous system activity.

Targecept has several NNR products in various phases of testing:

  • ADHD - Phase 2 testing, partnered with AstraZenica
  • Alzheimer's Disease, Phase 1 testing, partnered with AstraZenica
  • Cognitive Dysfunction in Schizophrenia, ready to enter Phase 2 testing
  • Major Depressive Disorder, ready to enter Phase 3 testing
  • Depression / Anxiety Disorders, Preclinical

They also plan to develop nicotine receptor treatments for inflammation, smoking cessation, obesity, pain, addiction and Parkinson's Disease. There is a lovely color chart on their Product Pipeline page:

Creating separate, narrowly-targeted treatments for all these condtions may mean that someone who is obese, has attention deficits, and is prone to depression will need a different pill for each condition. If these medications follow the pattern of other newly-approved pharmaceuticals, each will cost hundreds of dollars per month.

Nature's own NNR, plain old nicotine, controls the symptoms of most, if not all, of the conditions targeted by Targacept. Is it any wonder then, why smokers who are prone to anxiety or depression, who have problems concentrating, and/or who have memory impairments find it a Hurculean task to give up smoking?

Until recently, the most effective way of obtaining adequate nicotine was through tobacco smoke. Now that smokers have the option of switching to inhaling vaporized nicotine from an electronic cigarette, they are no longer subjected to the tar, carbon monoxide, and thousands of chemicals in tobacco smoke that trigger lung problems, heart disease, and cancer. By substituting electronic for their tobacco cigarettes, smokers can regain their physical health without having to pay the terrible price imposed by nicotine abstinence.