Research partners from pharma, academia, and SMEs have come together to form the Reward Task Optimisation Consortium (RTOC). Emerging from the ECNP Experimental Medicine Network and formally launched in April 2019, RTOC is a pre-competitive initiative aiming to advance the development of clinical tools to measure impaired motivation in people suffering from mental disorders.
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 behavioural neuroscience has paved the way to understanding these symptoms in the context of deficits in reward processing and goal-directed behaviour. RTOC will develop three specifically-selected computerised 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 consortium is led by P1vital Products, working together in partnership with scientific representatives from Boehringer Ingelheim, BlackThorn Therapeutics, Janssen, Lundbeck, and Roche. From academia, the consortium is strengthened with central nervous system 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. EEG experts from Biotrial bring their expertise in Event Related Potential (ERP) measurement and analysis expertise to the consortium.
The clinical study will involve European research centres in four EU countries, and recruitment is expected to open in Q3 2019.
Gerry Dawson, Chief Scientific Officer at P1vital, said: “The prevalence of mental illness is on the rise, but very few new pharmacological compounds are making it to market. Novel ways of conceptualising mental illness, treating patients, and conducting research are needed. In answer to this, RTOC is less driven by exploration of specific psychiatric diagnoses, but instead explores constructs, like anhedonia, which cause problems for a wide spectrum of patients, with the idea that these constructs may be better targets for treatments of the future.”
“Although cognitive tasks that measure different aspects of reward processing exist, few have been developed to the high standards required by industry” said P1vital Products CEO Jonathan Kingslake. “Pre-competitive initiatives like RTOC exemplify a powerful framework to drive innovation, stimulating new thinking and helping to develop shared learning and expertise, swiftly and incisively.”
RTOC has been supported and fostered by the European College of Neuropharmacology (ECNP) Experimental Medicine Framework and is funded by the participating industry members of the consortium.
For more information, please visit https://www.p1vital.com/research/rtoc/