Akhu Therapeutics is working on new medicine for anxiety and depression to be effective, fast, and safe for users and the environment. Anxiety and depression are among the most common mental illnesses, and they are major contributors to suicide, disability, and susceptibility to serious illnesses like heart disease and diabetes. Unfortunately, current therapies for anxiety and depression are only modestly effective, work very slowly, do not work for millions of sufferers, and/or exhibit numerous adverse side effects.
With respect to the side effects of a drug, its mechanism of action is a crucial factor. The mechanism of action that Akhu chose is blockade of the melanocortin-5 receptor (MC5R). This action is fundamentally different than that of any anti-anxiety drugs or anxiolytics (e.g., benzodiazepines) or antidepressant drugs (e.g., SSRIs) to ever reach the market.
Anxiolytics and antidepressants act on biological signals that regulate many different functions in the brain and body. Such broad actions are responsible for the well-known and well-documented adverse side effects of the drugs in current use. In contrast, MC5R, influences few functions in the brain and body. Therefore, MC5R blockers are expected to have fewer and milder side effects.
Surveys by Akhu or others show that in addition to lack of effectiveness, slow onset, and harsh side effects, drug pricing is a major concern for those using antidepressants. Although our MC5R blockers are in early development, our lead compound is extremely potent, relative to anxiolytics and antidepressants. Such potency makes it possible that it might be taken in very small doses, which would keep manufacturing costs low. In that case, the overall cost could be lower than that of the typical branded antidepressant.
Another problem with anxiolytics and antidepressants is that they are chemicals that remain active outside the body. As a result, they end up in streams and animals living in or near streams. In contrast, our lead compound is a biodegradable peptide (i.e., small protein) that is unlikely to pollute the environment.