Mental Health

mental health banner

Drugs play a major part in the treatment of mental illness, giving pharmacists the potential to play a significant role in delivering treatment and services to mental health patients.

The aim of mental health research at the Sydney Pharmacy School is to develop treatment for neurological diseases and increase the diversity of agents to investigate potential receptors and targets in treatment.

Research strengths

  • Dementia
  • Schizophrenia
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Neuropathic pain

Research highlights

  • Ion Channel Drug Discovery – Ligand gated ion channels are implicated in a number of neurological diseases such as dementia, epilepsy, anxiety, depression and neuropathic pain. The Ion Channel Drug Discovery team develops biological screening assays and identifies lead compounds and allosteric modulators that can be used to discover new drugs to treat mental health disorders. The group is recognized nationally and internationally for its work on structure and function of ligand gated ion channels and has well established collaborations with the biopharmaceutical industry in Australia and overseas.

  • Drug design - In collaboration with the Department of Pharmacology, our research team was the first to show that TPMPA, a selective GABAC receptor antagonist enhanced memory in animal models and have since developed novel and selective GABAC receptor antagonists that cross the blood-brain barrier. These agents show promising results in animal models of memory and are being evaluated in pre-clinical trials.

  • The design of inhibitors of an enzyme - The Church lab has been pursuing the design of inhibitors of an enzyme in the important kynurenine pathway, which is implicated in schizophrenia. We have utilised the 3D-structure of the kynurenine aminotransferase-2 (abbreviated KAT-2) enzyme to design novel and promising inhibitors.

  • Mental health services - Our translational research focuses on improving outcomes for consumers with mental health conditions. Our interprofessional approach is to build on the network of pharmacists in the wider health care system to lead and inform health care policy.
    Selected projects within Mental Health Services include:
    • optimising psychotropic medicines use in nursing homes
    • screening for mental health conditions in the community
    • facilitating medication adherence
    • implementing and evaluating strategies to reduce mental health stigma

Meet our research leader

Associate Professor Thomas Balle

Associate Professor Thomas Balle
Associate Professor, Pharmaceutical Sciences
Research Theme Leader

Associate Professor Balle is an expert in structure based drug design. His research focus is structural bioinformatics, computational medical chemistry and application of these techniques to identify novel ion channel drug targets and allosteric modulators relevant for treatment of mental health disorders.