Two Brain & Behavior Research Foundation Scientific Council Members have announced promising results of clinical trials of a ketamine-alternative called BCI-838 for the treatment of depression. Ketamine works within hours instead of the weeks it usually takes to see effects with current antidepressants. However, ketamine’s adverse side effects and potential for abuse have spurred researchers to seek safer alternatives.
Fred H. Gage, Ph.D., a distinguished scientist at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, has joined forces with Eric Kandel, M.D., a NARSAD Distinguished Investigator Grantee who won the Nobel Prize in 2000, to find a safer alternative to ketamine. They formed the biotechnology company BrainCells, which has initiated the next step needed to eventually commercialize BCI 838 with a Phase 1 clinical trial. In initial clinical trials, not only is the rapid antidepressant effect realized without the side effects associated with ketamine, but there is also evidence that BCI 838 may stimulate hippocampal neurogenesis (creation of new neurons). Decreased neurogenesis has been implicated in the pathogenesis of anxiety and depression and may make BCI 838 a novel treatment for a broader population of patients with mood or cognitive disorders.