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Daniel Yohannes, PhD, MBA

Daniel Yohannes, PhD, MBA - Research Interests

Longstanding applied research interest by Dr. Yohannes in nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) as a platform for therapeutics discovery have focused on a few major themes.

1) Cognition enhancement. The capability of alpha7 agonists of the nAChRs to address the cholinergic deficit of neurodegenerative diseases, leading to direct cognitive enhancement in those conditions has been well documented. Dr. Yohannes led a multi-year collaboration with AstraZeneca in the development of cognitive enhancers for Alzheimer’s disease. What is not yet demonstrated is the ability of alpha7 agonists to activate the endogenous cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway for clinically relevant therapeutic benefit in an inflammatory or neuroinflammatory condition resulting in cognitive impairment. Dr. Yohannes’ research interests are now focused on the development of novel therapeutics activating or potentiating alpha7 cholinergic receptors, with a particular emphasis in radiation-induced cognitive impairment, traumatic brain injury, and PTSD.

2) Nicotine addiction. Developing the next-generation of smoking cessation drugs is a major challenge. In particular, the identification of a therapeutic with preclinical superiority to varenicline (Chantix) is a difficult endeavor, but varenicline deficiencies in the market leave room for an improved nicotine addiction drug which not only has the ability to attenuate nicotine self-administration, but also address behavioral aspects of relapse (stress, anxiety, depression) which make cessation maintenance so difficult for many people. Dr. Yohannes has been a 7-year co-Investigator on a National Cooperative Drug Discovery Group public-private-partnership studying the role of the alpha6 nAChR subunit on nicotine addiction, and remains with the program as a Consultant. Other cholinergic mechanisms are also currently being investigated.

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