“Llama antibodies against schizophrenia”, promising research from a Montpellier resident

“Llama antibodies against schizophrenia”, promising research from a Montpellier resident

“Llama antibodies against schizophrenia”, promising research from a Montpellier resident

“Nos travaux sur des souris ont déjà montré leur efficacité”. DR – Fondation Bettencourt Schueller

On the occasion of World Schizophrenia Day, this Monday, March 18, the Montpellier researcher takes stock of his work on the theme of neurological and psychiatric illnesses.

Why were you interested in schizophrenia ?

Like many psychiatric illnesses, it is somewhat neglected by research. This pathology linked to a brain development disorder appears after adolescence and people affected by it have difficulty integrating socially. It’s also a very difficult illness for their caregivers to live with.

Are there any medications ?

Yes, they are called "antipsychotics". But if they correct certain symptoms, they have no effect on cognitive effects, for example. It is at this level that we wish to act in order to improve the disease.

Are you working on a pathology ?

No, I work on the mechanism of action of the neurotransmitter, called glutamate. It’s a small molecule that is used to transfer information between neurons in the brain. Eight out of ten synapses (areas of interaction between two nerve cells) function with glutamate. This molecule was highlighted as a neurotransmitter in the 1980s.

What does your work consist of ?

I am developing antibodies that will control the action of glutamate in the brain. But although antibodies work very well circulating in the blood to fight cancer, they cannot cross the barrier that protects the brain. To access it, we therefore use much smaller antibodies, which are only found in llamas, camels and dromedaries. Our work on mice has already shown their effectiveness. A dose of antibodies on a mouse has a prolonged effect for at least a week, or even more. This is important because people who suffer from psychiatric pathologies tend not to take their treatment regularly. Research is therefore moving towards slow diffusion capsules.

When can we expect effectiveness in humans?

Clinical trials are very long, taking ten or fifteen years. There is also the difficulty of financing. Fortunately, the Foundation for Medical Research (FMR), the National Research Agency (ANR) and the SATT AxLR support us.

Are you confident about the outcome of your work ?

Yes, because we have done the hardest part. We did not think that our antibodies would penetrate the brain so easily. And as we know that they are applicable to human beings, the path is clear. But to go further, a start-up will need to take over the project by investing several million euros.

You collaborate with the Chinese for your research ?

Yes, since 2004. Research on atomic structure is carried out there, because they have equipment that we do not have. There is a farm there with fifty llamas, a laboratory with ten people and a screening center. They saw the potential in our research and invested significantly. For our part, since the start of our program fourteen years ago, we have only benefited from one million euros!

Research is also a question of financial resources ?

Obviously ! As we only have very few, it is other countries that develop our ideas. And it’s not going to get better with the cancellation of 10 billion euros in credits from the 2024 budget by the government. Of these ten billion, research and higher education will be cut by one billion. 10% savings will therefore be made on 1% of the State budget dedicated to research! This is all the more terrible for brain pathologies as they are already the poor relation of research. However, these diseases affect one in three people, with a terrible impact on professional and family life.

Bio express

Aged 62 and originally from Orléans, Jean-Philippe Pin settled in Montpellier at the beginning of 1983.

He joined the Center for Pharmacology-Endocrinology in Montpellier, which later became the Institute of Functional Genomics (IGF). He created the department of molecular pharmacology there in 2003. He directed the IGF from 2011 to 2020 and has just celebrated his forty years of research within this structure.

He joined the CNRS in 1988, where he became director of the Eidos cooperative laboratory. He was one of the pioneers in the discovery of metabotropic glutamate receptors in the mid-1980s.

He carried out research at the Salk Institute in San Diego in the early 1990s.

He received the CNRS silver medal in 2011, and the prestigious Lamonica Prize for Neurology in 2022.

The Foundation for Medical Research is organizing its 4th Mental Health Research Week, from March 18 to 24, digitally. The issue ? Raise awareness among the French, particularly the youngest, about psychiatric illnesses, lift taboos and collect to advance medical research. https://www.frm.org/fr I subscribe to read more

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