Research Foundation News

October 15, 2019

Drug discovery platform may provide new options for treating mental health illnesses

platform illness Purdue University scientists have created a platform focused on finding new medication options for people dealing with mental illnesses. The Computational Analysis of Novel Drug Opportunities platform is designed to predict the effectiveness of certain psychoactive drugs. (Stock photo) Download image

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – An estimated 46.6 million U.S. adults struggle with mental illnesses, such as anxiety disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. About half of millennials and 75% of Gen-Zers report having quit jobs for mental health reasons.

Now, Purdue University scientists have created a platform focused on finding new medication options for people dealing with mental illnesses. The Computational Analysis of Novel Drug Opportunities (CANDO) drug discovery platform is designed to predict the effectiveness of certain psychoactive drugs, which act primarily upon the central nervous system. Details about the platform are published in the Sept. 11 edition of Scientific Reports.

“One of the areas we are looking at with the platform is the use of non-addictive cannabis-based drugs that may help people with mental illness,” said Gaurav Chopra, an assistant professor of analytical and physical chemistry in Purdue’s College of Science, who led the creation of the platform. “Our approach is unique because we look at compound interactions with the entire proteome, rather than the traditional approach of focusing on the interaction with just one target or just by looking at the structure of the drug.”

The CANDO drug discovery platform analyzes how a drug may work for a certain mental illnesses, based on a collective comparison with all other drugs already approved to treat those same conditions or symptoms of the underlying disease. The platform also looks for signature compound interactions with proteins that are similar in the proposed drugs with those already being used to treat people.

pipeline identify Schematic of computational chemoproteomics pipeline to identify psychoactives for mental-health indications using the CANDO platform. (Image provided) Download image

“Our goal with this platform is mapping potential uses for selected drugs to serve as a starting point to ignite further research into the once forbidden field of mental illnesses,” Chopra said. “Our work on compound interactions of all known psychoactive substances provides a resource to further verify the use of selected psychoactives, identify mechanisms of action and suggest relationships between different mental health indications. This will enhance research in drug discovery for several mental health conditions as well as help with identifying mechanisms for eventual treatment of indications such as pain and substance use disorder.”

Chopra and his team have worked with the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization on patents for various technologies. For more information on licensing a Purdue innovation, contact the Office of Technology Commercialization at

Chopra’s lab is located in the Purdue Institute for Drug Discovery. More information about the lab’s work is available at He is a member of Purdue Institute for Integrative Neuroscience, the Integrative Data Science Initiative, Bindley Bioscience Center, Purdue Center for Cancer Research and Purdue Institute of Inflammation, Immunology and Infectious Disease.

About Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization           

The Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization operates one of the most comprehensive technology transfer programs among leading research universities in the U.S. Services provided by this office support the economic development initiatives of Purdue University and benefit the university's academic activities through commercializing, licensing and protecting Purdue intellectual property. The office is managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, which received the 2016 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Award for Innovation from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. The Purdue Research Foundation is a private, nonprofit foundation created to advance the mission of Purdue University. Visit the Office of Technology Commercialization to learn more. For more information about funding and investment opportunities in startups based on a Purdue innovation, contact the Purdue Foundry at         

Writer: Chris Adam, 765-588-3341, 

Gaurav Chopra,


Computational chemoproteomics to understand the role of selected psychoactives in treating mental health indications

Jonathan Fine, Rachel Lackner, Ram Samudrala and Gaurav Chopra

We have developed the Computational Analysis of Novel Drug Opportunities (CANDO) platform to infer homology of drug behaviour at a proteomic level by constructing and analysing structural compound-proteome interaction signatures of 3,733 compounds with 48,278 proteins in a shotgun manner. We applied the CANDO platform to predict putative therapeutic properties of 428 psychoactive compounds that belong to the phenylethylamine, tryptamine, and cannabinoid chemical classes for treating mental health indications. Our findings indicate that these 428 psychoactives are among the top-ranked predictions for a significant fraction of mental health indications, demonstrating a significant preference for treating such indications over non-mental health indications, relative to randomized controls. Also, we analysed the use of specific tryptamines for the treatment of sleeping disorders, bupropion for substance abuse disorders, and cannabinoids for epilepsy. Our innovative use of the CANDO platform may guide the identification and development of novel therapies for mental health indications and provide an understanding of their causal basis on a detailed mechanistic level. These predictions can be used to provide new leads for preclinical drug development for mental health and other neurological disorders.

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