Four scientists discuss their joint research into a radical new treatment
with Professor Steve Williams, Dr Fiona Le Beau, Dr Michael Harte and Dr Barbara Domayne-Hayman
Tuesday 23 September 2014
This unique Symposium is well placed to happen during the run of the exhibition at GV Art, ‘Reassembling the Self’. The exhibition, curated by Susan Aldworth, is centred on a study of the condition of schizophrenia, which weaves together art, science, psychiatry and individual histories in an extraordinary exploration of self, perception and the fragility of human identity.
The relevant study is a research collaboration between Autifony Therapeutics and the universities of Manchester and Newcastle. We are fortunate to have not one but four of the individuals working on this development as our speakers.
Here are some background notes.
Schizophrenia affects nearly 5 million people across the EU and US, yet was dubbed the ‘Abandoned Illness’ in a report by the UK’s Schizophrenia Commission (www.schizophreniacommission.org.uk) in 2012. Current antipsychotic drugs prescribed do not work well for many people with schizophrenia, and often cause considerable side effects. There is also a great need for drugs that can treat the cognitive and negative symptoms of the disease: it is now well established that cognitive symptoms, including difficulties in decision making, attention and memory, as well as negative symptoms, particularly lack of social communication, reduced emotional reactivity and impaired response to pleasurable activities, are key influences on the likely outcome for patients.
Many of the new drugs in development work by interacting with the same brain mechanisms as those that have been used for the several decades and lack effectiveness in treating the cognitive and negative symptoms, so there is a real need for a new approach. The challenge is to take advantage of recent research, and develop drugs that may treat the underlying brain dysfunction. Such drugs could have revolutionary potential in the treatment and outcomes for people with schizophrenia.
Autifony Therapeutics Limited is a new biotech company working in this case with the Universities of Manchester and Newcastle, and have been developing a novel drug candidate targeting specific channels in the brain, called Kv3.1 potassium ion channels.
Professor Steve Williams, Chair in Imaging Science, University of Manchester
Steve Williams is an imaging scientist who has specialized in the use of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to image the body and measure its chemical constituents non-invasively. He did a PhD in Oxford and worked in London at the Royal College of Surgeons and the Institute of Child Health until moving to become Professor of Imaging Science at Manchester University in 1999. Most of his work is now concerned with measuring structure, function and chemical messengers in the brain, in collaboration with biological scientists, neuroscientists and psychiatrists.
Dr Michael Harte, Lecturer in Drug Action, Manchester Pharmacy School, University of Manchester
Mike Harte is a preclinical scientist who was recently appointed as a Lecturer in Drug Action in the Manchester Pharmacy School. Alongside Prof Joanna Neill and the B-neuro team (www.b-neuro.com), his research is focused around the utilisation of preclinical models (pharmacological/non-pharmacological/genetic) to investigate cognitive dysfunction, neurochemical deficits and underlying brain changes implicated in the causes and treatment of neuropsychiatric (e.g. schizophrenia) and neurodegenerative (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease) disorders.
Dr. Fiona E. N. LeBeau, Lecturer, Institute of Neuroscience, Newcastle Univesity
Fiona LeBeau has spent many years researching brain networks in order to understand how cognitive functions such as learning and memory may be mediated. She is also interested in how circuits in the brain are modulated by neurotransmitter chemical signals such as dopamine and noradrenaline. Changes in these neurotransmitters occur in many conditions including drug addiction, depression and schizophrenia so work is also focused on understanding these changes and their consequences to normal cognitive function. Since 2005 she has held an academic appointment in the Institute of Neuroscience at Newcastle University. Dr. LeBeau also has a long-standing interest in art and has worked with Susan Aldworth for the past five years.
Dr Barbara Domayne-Hayman, Chief Business Officer, Autifony Therapeutics Limited
Barbara Domayne-Hayman has worked for many years at the interface between the scientific and commercial worlds. She has a broad range of commercial, fund-raising and general management experience, with particular focus on business development in the biotechnology sector. She is currently Chief Business Officer at Autifony Therapeutics and ‘Entrepreneur-in-residence’ at the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst. Having started her career working in a large organization (ICI), Barbara has spent the last 14 years working for a range of biotech companies before joining Autifony, including Celltech, Arrow Therapeutics and Stabilitech where she was CEO. Barbara holds a Sloan Fellowship from London Business School and she has a BA and D.Phil in chemistry, from the University of Oxford.