Latest developments in causes and treatments



National Institutes of Health Funds Drug Development to Treat Nicotine Addiction

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) have awarded a three-year, $9 million grant for the development of SBP-9330, a small molecule that targets a glutamate receptor linked to nicotine addiction.

The grant goes to three entities that participated in the successful Phase 1 trials: San Diego-based Camino Pharma; La Jolla-based Sanford Burnham Prebys; and the University of California San Diego School of Medicine.

Nicotine addiction is a disorder of the brain’s reward system which is measured as a multifarious disease of the central nervous system, according to researchers reporting on the neurobiology of nicotine addiction for the Journal of Pharmacopuncture. Nicotine stimulates the dopaminergic system, the authors note, “which is mainly responsible for nicotinic actions and dependence.”

The authors go on to describe how nicotine activates dopamine and how dopamine acts on the brain’s reward mechanism:

This system is considered accountable for the reinforcing operations such as dependence and reliance activity of Nicotiana. So, nicotine shows somewhat similar actions to other addictive substances like cocaine, amphetamine, alcohol, and opiate.

The research shows there are a small number of neurotransmitters in the area of the central nervous system impacted by nicotine’s interaction with the dopaminergic system. That brings us back to the research on SBP-9330 as a nicotine addiction treatment. The discoverer of SBP-9330, Dr. Nicholas C­osford at Sanford Burnham Prebys, also sees the potential to test the molecule for the treatment of other addictions:

SBP-9330 […] represents a new class of drugs for treating substance use disorders. We are optimistic we can expand the indications to other types of addiction beyond nicotine, as supported by our preclinical data in animal models.

SBP-9330 successfully completed Phase 1 clinical trials demonstrating that the drug is safe to use with minimal side effects. The Phase 2 trials being funded by the new NIH/NIDA grant will test the effectiveness of the molecule as a stop-smoking treatment.

Written by Steve O’Keefe. First published February 8, 2024.


“$9 million NIH grant advances drug to treat nicotine addiction,” Yahoo! Finance, February 6, 2024.

“Nicotine Addiction: Neurobiology and Mechanism,” Journal of Pharmacopuncture, March 31, 2020.

Image Copyright: National Institutes of Health, Public Domain.



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