Rebecca Brachman: Could a drug prevent depression and PTSD?
Rebecca Brachman - Neuroscientist, writer, entrepreneur
Rebecca Brachman is a pioneer in the field of preventative psychopharmacology, developing drugs to enhance stress resilience and prevent mental illness. Full bio
in the late 1800s,
what was causing this disease.
that made you susceptible.
it gave you heightened sensitivity
that tuberculosis was caused
develop drugs to treat it.
a new drug, iproniazid,
might cure tuberculosis,
they were "dancing in the halls."
because they were getting better.
as being "inappropriately happy."
antidepressant was discovered.
is not uncommon in science,
than just a happy accident.
for discovery to occur.
I'm going to talk to you a little bit
the opposite of dumb luck --
and we can actually now cure tuberculosis.
though not necessarily in other countries,
are not too worried about TB.
in the early 1900s
about psychiatric disorders.
of an epidemic of mood disorders
stress disorder, or PTSD.
in the United States
experienced it personally
that someone you know has,
of disability worldwide.
that was making people manic,
ward and the antihistamine,
to do one thing --
or suppress allergies --
something very different --
is actually quite challenging.
this mood-enhancing effect of iproniazid,
what they saw.
of being a tuberculosis drug
are experiencing severe euphoria.
that this might somehow interfere
only be used in cases of extreme TB
highly emotionally stable,
of how we use it as an antidepressant.
from the perspective of this one disease,
for another disease.
it's not entirely their fault.
is a bias that affects all of us.
be able to think of an object
use or function.
pretty hard for all of us,
a TV show to the guy who was,
of iproniazid and imipramine,
or people dancing in the halls.
they were caught.
what else we've missed.
a case study in repurposing.
that are really important.
increase levels of serotonin,
right, one or the two,
that we had to develop safer drugs,
like a pretty good place to start.
to more specifically focus on serotonin,
reuptake inhibitors, so the SSRIs,
just worked on optimizing those drugs.
than the drugs that came before them,
in a lot of patients.
where they do work.
where these drugs don't work.
for any mood disorders,
taking a painkiller for an infection
to treat that underlying disease.
in our thinking
that iproniazid and imipramine
this is a dramatization.
and remove our bias, right,
as to what our results will be.
in what we choose to study
for the past 30 years,
isn't all there is to depression?
doctors have discovered
antidepressant since the SSRIs,
within a few hours or a day,
which is another neurotransmitter.
as anesthesia in surgery.
was an antidepressant,
a better antidepressant,
that it's a better antidepressant
as an antidepressant in mice.
a really short half-life,
within a few hours.
another experiment to save money.
like it didn't really work at all.
of depression for years,
that one injection of Calypsol
is actually the measure of them walking.
another mouse in a pencil cup
in case that's not clear.
in this depression model,
in that back corner, behind a cup.
that one injection of Calypsol,
had never been stressed at all,
Calypsol before as anesthesia,
some weird effects on cells
long after the drug,
when you're not sure,
to test them,
on the floor with the computer in her lap
the data in real time.
in an animal room where you're testing,
were protected against stress,
however you want to call it.
because it was too good to be true.
in a physiological model,
halfway across the world in France run it.
they confirmed the same thing.
this one injection of Calypsol
against stress for weeks.
have independently confirmed this effect.
is the initial trigger
are different diseases,
they share in common.
develops a mood disorder.
stress and be resilient
depression or PTSD
as just sort of this passive property.
the first resilience-enhancing drug.
a tiny amount of the drug,
you see with antidepressants.
to what you see in immune vaccines.
you'll get your shots,
that protects you.
to this bacteria that fights it off,
from, say, our treatments. Right?
you're exposed to the bacteria,
say, an antibiotic which cures it,
to kill the bacteria.
with this palliative,
that will suppress the symptoms,
the underlying infection,
during the time in which you're taking it,
have to keep taking them
the length of your own life.
like they might have the potential
are also paravaccines.
like depression and PTSD.
of the scale of these diseases,
and is therefore expected to rise
in just the next 15 years.
because of our prior biases.
as an anesthetic.
We use it on the battlefield.
in a lot of developing nations,
list of most essential medicines.
as a paravaccine first,
with our functional fixedness
the only compound we have discovered
they're totally new,
the entire FDA approval process --
they can ever be used in humans.
of the price and a fraction of the time.
functional fixedness and mental set,
to repurposing drugs,
and no longer exclusive
to develop them,
That is true for all drugs.
is completely novel in psychiatry,
100 years from now,
at depression and PTSD
at tuberculosis sanitoriums
of the mental health epidemic.
About the speaker:Rebecca Brachman - Neuroscientist, writer, entrepreneur
Rebecca Brachman is a pioneer in the field of preventative psychopharmacology, developing drugs to enhance stress resilience and prevent mental illness.
Why you should listen
Current treatments for mood disorders only suppress symptoms without addressing the underlying disease, and there are no known cures. The drugs Rebecca Brachman is developing would be the first to prevent psychiatric disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression.
Brachman completed her PhD at Columbia University, prior to which she was a fellow at the National Institutes of Health, where she discovered that immune cells carry a memory of psychological stress and that white blood cells can act as antidepressants and resilience-enhancers. Brachman's research has been featured in The Atlantic, WIRED and Business Insider, and her work was recently described by Dr. George Slavich on NPR as a "moonshot project that is very much needed in the mental health arena."
In addition to conducting ongoing research at Columbia, Brachman is an NYCEDC Entrepreneurship Lab Fellow and cofounder of Paravax -- a biotech startup developing vaccine-like prophylactic drugs ("paravaccines") -- along with her scientific collaborator, Christine Ann Denny. She is also working on a non-profit venture to repurpose existing generic drugs for use as prophylactics, and previously served as the Interim Program Director for Outreach at the Zuckerman Institute at Columbia University.
Brachman is also a playwright and screenwriter. She holds Bachelor's degrees in both neuroscience and creative wWriting, and she is currently working on a tech-focused writing project with her long-time writing partner, Sean Calder ("Grimm," "Damages," "ER"). She served as the director of NeuWrite, a national network of science-writing groups that fosters ongoing collaboration between scientists, writers and artists, and she has been featured as a storyteller at The Story Collider.
(Photo: Kenneth Willardt)
Rebecca Brachman | Speaker | TED.com