Focus on Clinical Tool Development to Advance New Treatments for Neurobehavioral Disorders
BlackThorn Therapeutics, Inc., a clinical-stage, neurobehavioral health company pioneering next-generation artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to advance targeted therapeutics, announced its participation in the Reward Task Optimization Consortium (RTOC). Emerging from the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) Experimental Medicine Network, and formally launched in April 2019, RTOC is a pre-competitive initiative, which aims to advance the development of clinical tools to measure impaired motivation in people with neurobehavioral disorders.
The RTOC is comprised of members from the pharmaceutical industry, academia, and subject matter experts. It will be led by P1vital Products, working together in partnership with scientific representatives from BlackThorn Therapeutics, Boehringer Ingelheim, Janssen, Lundbeck, and Roche. From academia, the consortium is strengthened with central nervous system (CNS) disease expertise from the Maastricht University’s School for Mental Health and Neuroscience; University Hospital Frankfurt; the Institute of Neuropsychiatry and Addictions (INAD), Parc de Salut Mar, Barcelona; and the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, School of Medicine, Department of Clinical Pharmacology. Electroencephalogram (EEG) experts from Biotrial bring their expertise in Event Related Potential measurement and analysis to the RTOC.
“We are pleased to join forces with the RTOC to rigorously develop and clinically validate neurobehavioral tasks to help advance the development of innovative new treatments for people with mental disorders,” said Jane Tiller, MD, chief medical officer of BlackThorn Therapeutics. “Our approaches are well aligned in recognizing that common pathologies, such as anhedonia, which cut across classical diagnostic categories, may be better targets for treatments of the future.”
In clinical practice, impaired motivation, loss of interest, apathy, and social withdrawal are frequently reported symptoms in many CNS disorders, including major depressive disorder and schizophrenia. Together with the inability to experience and/or anticipate pleasure, called “anhedonia”, these symptoms predict poor functional outcomes for patients, especially at the social level. Modern behavioral neuroscience has paved the way to understanding these symptoms in the context of deficits in reward processing and goal-directed behavior. RTOC will develop three specifically-selected computerized tasks of reward processing and paired EEG measurers of brain activity. After rigorous software verification, the tasks will be validated in a clinical trial of two patient populations: schizophrenia and major depression. If successful, the tasks will be implemented in clinical trials designed to develop new treatments for anhedonia and impairment linked to sub-optimal reward processing. The clinical study will involve European research centers in four EU countries; recruitment is expected to open in Q3 2019.
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