Scientific Vice President and Disease Area Leader in Mood Disorders in the Neuroscience Therapeutic Area, Janssen Research & Development, LLC, one of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson
Daily Discoveries. Dr. Drevets is a scientist Janssen Research & Development, LLC, one of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, where he oversees the development of new treatments for mood disorders, such as major depressive disorder, treatment resistant depression and suicidality. He began his career looking at existing medicines and their effects on the brain, and later transitioned to the discovery and development of new treatments that would address the shortcomings of those existing medicines to better help patients. Right now, he is working on new, more effective ways to treat and manage depression, including an innovative method that’s currently in clinical trials.
The Driving Force. A psychiatrist by training, Wayne says that observing friends who have struggled with depression is what initially attracted him to the field. “When I started to study and understand more and more about these illnesses, it became clear to me that mood disorders were unique because you can use imaging technology to physically see the differences in a patient’s brain when they’re having symptoms versus when they’re not,” says Wayne. “We can also track the effects of different medicines on the brain and see how those effects impact a patient’s mood and physical symptoms, which is exciting.”
Challenges, Chance and Looking Forward. “When I first started in this field, we really didn’t even know where to look in the brain to find abnormalities. In just the past 25 years, we’ve learned a tremendous amount about the mechanisms in the brain that regulate emotional behavior. And yet, there’s a gap between what we’re learning about the brain and the way we practice psychiatry, which is more or less the same as it was when I was in training,” says Wayne. “That’s one of the main reasons I made the decision to move over to the industry. I wanted to help develop new treatments that would make a difference for patients in the clinic.”
While scientists and researchers have made a great deal of progress in the field of depression and mood disorders, Wayne says they have a lot more to learn. “With existing treatments, we see about one third of the population get better, about one third get temporarily or slightly better, and about one third that doesn’t respond at all. We haven’t quite figured out the differences between these people and why they respond differently. I think we need to focus on that,” says Wayne.
“At Janssen, we’re focusing primarily on the third of patients who did not get well or better at all on existing treatments. Ultimately, we’d like to be able to develop new treatments that target the specific biological markers of the disorder, similar to the way you study and target malignant tissue in cancer. We’re also working on developing more medicines that work quickly, so that patients suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts can receive quick relief, as opposed to the three weeks it would take for an older medicine to work. It has been incredibly rewarding to witness the significant benefits that these medicines have delivered to patients. I’m excited to see what the future holds for this field of medicine.”