Author(s): Arneric SP, Holladay M, Williams M
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Abstract Neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) have been a target for drug discovery efforts, primarily for CNS indications, for the past two decades. While nicotine and related natural products have been used for smoking cessation in various formulations (e.g., gum, spray, patches), it was only in 2006 with the launch of varenicline (Chantix) by Pfizer for smoking cessation that a new chemical entity (NCE) originating from a rational medicinal chemistry effort targeting neuronal AChRs was approved. The current overview outlines the chronology of drug discovery efforts in nAChRs from the cloning of the receptor family in the 1980s, to initial research efforts at SIBIA, R.J. Reynolds and Abbott, to the current industry-wide interest in nAChR agonists as novel therapeutics for pain, schizophrenia and Alzheimer's Disease. Key events in the evolution of the nAChR field were the development of high throughput electrophysiological screening tools that provided the means to enable lead optimization efforts in medicinal chemistry and the discovery by John Daly at the NIH of the frog alkaloid, epibatidine, that provided the framework for the discovery of ABT-594, an alpha4beta2 agonist that is 200 times more potent than morphine as an analgesic. Over the next decade, it is anticipated that additional NCEs including antagonists and allosteric modulators (both positive and negative), interacting with various nAChR subtypes, will be advanced to the clinic in areas of high unmet medical need, e.g., pain, neurodegeneration, to provide novel medications with improved efficacy.
This article was published in Biochem Pharmacol
and referenced in Journal of Addiction Research & Therapy