More than 50 stu­dents and fac­ulty, along with aca­d­emic, industry and gov­ern­mental part­ners of Northeastern’s Center for Drug Dis­covery, con­vened ear­lier this month for the 10th annual sym­po­sium on cur­rent trends in drug-​​abuse research.

The CDD takes an inter­dis­ci­pli­nary approach to dis­cov­ering novel med­ica­tions and drug-​​development methods. The day­long sym­po­sium fea­tured pre­sen­ta­tions on a variety of research areas, each impor­tant to under­standing the biology of addic­tion and the dis­covery of ther­a­peutic inter­ven­tions for those addictions.

At the begin­ning of the day, CDD Director Alexan­dros Makriyannis — the George D. Behrakis Chair in Phar­ma­ceu­tical Biotech­nology, who holds joint appoint­ments in the Col­lege of Sci­ence and the Bouvé Col­lege of Health Sci­ences — noted that pre­sen­ta­tions would relate to drugs of abuse as well as con­di­tions con­nected to drug abuse. “It will be a truly inter­dis­ci­pli­nary event,” he said, noting that the topics would range from the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of novel tar­gets for insulin resis­tance to a poten­tial chem­ical approach for diag­nosing cer­tain types of cancer.

North­eastern doc­toral can­di­dates Kyle Whitten and Mah­moud Nasr pre­sented results from two dis­tinct areas of research in the Makriyannis lab.

Whitten focused his talk on the syn­thesis of a class of novel chem­i­cals and their inter­ac­tions with the endo­cannabi­noid system. Nasr focused his dis­cus­sion on the impor­tance of new nanoprobes for iden­ti­fying ele­vated levels of monoa­cyl­glyc­erol lipase, a mol­e­cule asso­ci­ated with many cancers.

You could use this method to selec­tively label a single pro­tein,” Nasr said.

David Janero, the center’s deputy director, ush­ered the pro­gram. The grad­uate stu­dent pre­sen­ta­tions, he said, demon­strated the “kind of mesh­work between chem­istry and biology that is at the foun­da­tion of drug discovery.”

Two keynote speakers, Jane Acri of the National Insti­tute on Drug Abuse and Lak­shmi Devi of Mt. Sinai Med­ical School, exam­ined the recep­tors involved in drug addic­tion, which must be under­stood in order to develop inter­ven­tion strategies.

We’re not just devel­oping drugs our­selves,” said Acri, who is part of NIDA’s med­ica­tion dis­covery pro­gram. “We’re also trying to help you develop drugs.”

In another pre­sen­ta­tion, Jack Bergman, a col­lab­o­rator of the Makriyannis lab based at the Harvard-​​affiliated McLean Hos­pital, described the behav­ioral effects of sev­eral of the center’s drugs, which, unlike their com­mer­cially avail­able coun­ter­parts, have sig­nif­i­cantly fewer side effects.