Over the past 50 years, the pharmaceutical industry has led the way in treatment of mental health disorders, such as depression or schizophrenia. Prozac, Cymbalta and other psychiatric drugs became multi-billion dollar blockbusters, while antidepressants became the most prescribed drug class in the US.
However, despite this enormous commercial success, existing drugs are only modestly effective and are largely insufficient in addressing most mental health disorders. As a result, neuropsychiatric disorders remain the number one cause of disability and suicide, the largest contributor to healthcare cost, and a major source of human suffering for both patients and their loved ones.
Breakthrough innovation and novel approaches to treating neuropsychiatric disorders are sorely needed. Today’s drugs in depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, while safer, are no more effective than those discovered in 1950’s, as they fundamentally act on the same targets. The pharmaceutical industry, with its chemistry-driven approach to brain disorders, has largely hit a road block in neuropsychiatry. Thus, many big pharma companies have exited the therapeutic area over the past ten years.
At the same time, the field of neuroscience has been experiencing an explosion. Government funding of brain research is exceeding that of the Human Genome Project by a factor of two, the neurosciences are the fastest growing PhD field, and new, very powerful brain research tools are rapidly emerging.
As a result, our understanding of brain disorders is rapidly evolving -- from earlier “chemical imbalance” hypotheses to “dysfunction of neural circuits”. These circuits, which utilize electrical signals to carry out brain functions, can be modulated by applying electromagnetic fields externally to brain.