Medications Discovery Research Branch - The Intramural Research Program of the National Institute on Drug Abuse

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Molecular Targets and Medications Discovery BRANCH

Branch Overview

Branch Chief: Amy Hauck Newman, Ph.D. on-site page link

The Molecular Targets and Medications Discovery Branch investigates behavioral and pharmacological mechanisms underlying the effects of drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamine that lead to their abuse and to drug dependence. Studies of the behavioral effects of drugs, including their reinforcing and subjective effects, are designed to provide new insights into the functioning of psychoactive agents in the central nervous system (CNS), and how those actions may lead to drug abuse. Novel, small molecules are designed and synthesized as pharmacological tools to study neurochemical targets in the brain, and actions at those targets are related to the behavioral effects of abused drugs. Current targets of interest are the dopamine and serotonin transporters, dopamine (D1, D2, D3), mGluR5, and sigma receptors. The analyses of in vitro and in vivo effects of target-selective compounds provides a relation between mechanism and behavior that has led to the discovery of compounds that may prove to be leads for the development of pharmacological treatments for drug dependence and other disorders of the CNS.

Medicinal Chemistry Section - click for larger version
Medicinal Chemistry Section - click for larger version

Lab Page

Medicinal Chemistry Section

Section Chief: Amy Hauck Newman, Ph.D. on-site page link

Design, synthesis and pharmacological evaluation of:

  • Atypical dopamine uptake inhibitors that bind with high affinity and selectivity to the dopamine transporter but are not cocaine-like in animal models of psychostimulant abuse
  • Dopamine D3 receptor antagonists and partial agonists as in vivo tools for the elucidation of the role these receptors play in addiction and impulsive behaviors
  • Novel D2 and D3 receptor biased agonists
  • Fluorescent ligands to study structure and function of the dopamine and serotonin transporters

Addiction Biology Unit - click for larger version
Addiction Biology Unit - click for larger version

Addiction Biology Unit

Unit Chief: Zheng-Xiong Xi on-site page link

Ongoing projects include:

  • Mechanism-based medication development for treatment of addiction
  • Optogenetic investigation of brain neural circuits modulating reward and aversion
  • Development of magnetogenetic techniques to control drug-taking and drug-seeking behavior
  • Development of nanomedicine and brain-target drug delivery techniques for treatment of addiction

Integrative Neurobiology Section - Cick for largerIntegrative Neurobiology Section - Click for larger version

Integrative Neurobiology Section

Section Chief: Sergi Ferré, M.D., Ph.D. on-site page link

Projects include:

  • Functional and pharmacological significance of neurotransmitter receptor heteromers with in vivo approaches.
  • Molecular interactions involved in the quaternary structure and function of neurotransmitter receptor heteromers (cellular and molecular approaches).

Designer Drug Research UnitDesigner Drug Research Unit - Click for larger version

Designer Drug Research Unit

Chief: Michael H. Baumann, Ph.D.

Topics of investigation include:

  • Pharmacology of newly-emerging designer drugs of abuse, such as “bath salts” stimulants and “K2/Spice” cannabinoids
  • Structure-activity relationships for ligands interacting at monoamine transporter proteins
  • Mechanisms underlying neurotoxic effects of stimulant drugs of abuse

Drug Design and Synthesis Section - Click for larger versionDrug Design and Synthesis Section - Click for larger version

Drug Design and Synthesis Section

Section Chief: Kenner C. Rice, Ph.D. page icon
  • Medicinal chemistry of drugs acting on central and peripheral opioid receptors, CRH receptors, and toll-like receptors
  • Rational design and chemical synthesis of novel agonists, antagonists, imaging agents, and affinity ligands
  • Medicinal chemistry in the study of alcohol abuse, hallucinogenic drugs, and drugs acting on biogenic amine receptors

Neuropsychopharmacology Section - Click for larger versionIntegrative Neuroscience Section - Click for larger version

Neuropsychopharmacology Section

Section Chief: Eliot L. Gardner, Ph.D. page icon
  • Basic brain mechanisms underlying drug addiction, craving, and relapse
  • Endocannabinoid brain mechanisms and addiction
  • Dopamine D3 receptor antagonists
  • Glutamatergic compounds, with emphasis on the metabotropic glutamate receptor
  • GABAergic agonists, with emphasis on the GABA-B receptor
  • Slow-onset long-acting dopamine transport inhibitors
  • Drugs acting on the endocannabinoid brain system

Computational Chemistry and Molecular Biophysics Unit - Click for larger versionComputational Chemistry and Molecular Biophysics Unit - Click for larger version

Computational Chemistry and Molecular Biophysics Unit

Section Chief: Lei Shi, Ph.D. page icon
  • Mechanistic studies of membrane proteins, such as G-protein coupled receptors and secondary-active transporters, with computational approaches including bioinformatics, molecular modeling and simulations.
  • Structure-based rational compound/drug design
  • Method development for analyzing molecular dynamics simulation data

Medication Development Program - Click for larger versionMedication Development Program - Click for larger version

Lab Page


Medication Development Program

Director: Dr. Amy Hauck Newman on-site page link
Deputy Director: Dr. Gianluigi Tanda page icon
Associate Director for Clinical Research: Dr. Lorenzo Leggio
page icon

  • MDP Mission: Developing potential medications to treat substance use disorders from target identification and assay development through licensing NIDA/IRP technology.
  • Objective: To provide services, training, resources and advice to Investigators who are working on Medication Development projects and can benefit from our skills and expertise.

Related Information...

IRP Training Opportunities...


2009 Postbacs
Postdoc, Predoc, Postbac and Summer Student training opportunities available!


2009 Summer Students
Research & Training Program for Under-represented Populations

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The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the principal biomedical and behavioral research agency of the United States Government. NIH is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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