HPU’s Dr. Scott Hemby Receives More Than $1 Million in Collaborative NIH Funding

This grant will help develop medication for substance use disorders.

High Point, North Carolina, UNITED STATES

High Point, N.C., Oct. 26, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Dr. Scott Hemby, chair of the Department of Basic Pharmaceutical Sciences in High Point University’s Fred Wilson School of Pharmacy, will receive more than $1 million in funding over the next five years as part of a collaborative grant with Dr. Dali Sames, professor of chemistry at Columbia University and lead investigator, for his role in the development of medications for substance abuse disorders, primarily opiate use disorders.

The grant entitled “Chemistry and Pharmacology of Iboga Alkaloids” is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health and focuses on the development of medications for substance use disorders.

“The ongoing opiate epidemic highlights the enormity of the substance use and abuse problem in the United States and the prevalence of substance use disorders (SUDs) and substance overdose deaths represent a national public health crisis that has only worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Hemby. “There are a limited number of approved medications to treat opioid use disorders currently. However, the available medications are substitute opioids which can be abused and have low likelihood of leading to complete opioid detoxification. Therefore, any advancement in the development of new breakthrough therapeutics for opiate use disorders will have major positive public health consequences.”

Sames has designed chemical synthetic strategies to develop novel analogues of ibogaine, which is the main psychoactive constituent of the plant Tabernanthe iboga, that has been used for centuries in West Central Africa. Ibogaine has been used for its ability to interrupt opiate and cocaine dependence and addiction. Sames will synthesize new compounds which he provides to Hemby’s lab for testing. Hemby and Sames’ roles are to assess the ability of these novel compounds to reduce drug taking, drug craving and relapse and to understand the biochemical basis for these effects. 

“Over the past 20 years, my lab has used a variety of models and approaches to delineate the neurobiological basis of drug addiction and examine compounds as potential therapies for SUDs,” says Hemby. “Currently, our efforts in medication identification and development for SUDs includes characterization of compounds from kratom, in addition to the aforementioned collaboration with Dr. Sames. This grant serves as a recognition of our efforts and will enable us to commit significant resources and effort to our goal of medication development for substance use disorders.”


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