Depression and anxiety disorders are curable. Faster and more efficient than ever.
HMNC Brain Health defines the future of depression and anxiety treatment: We develop innovative personalized therapies to shorten the duration of treatment, improve treatment outcomes and reduce the risk of relapse.
Our portfolio includes laboratory tests that help to optimize treatment with antidepressants on the market, as well as innovative medicines against depression and anxiety. Our innovative methods are supported by laboratory diagnostics and help to recommend the right medication to the patient more quickly.
HMNC establishes personalized medicine in psychiatry. Because every disease of the brain is unique. As unique as the patient who suffers from it - often for an unnecessarily long time. The solution are therapy methods tailored to the individual’s needs.
HMNC improves the treatment of depression and anxiety through fundamentally new approaches: We are developing products that (1) allow better use of currently available drugs, (2) combine companion diagnostics with innovative drugs and (3) prevent the development of chronic depression.
The developed projects follow the principle of personalized therapy. Their basic idea is that not all patients with a specific diagnosis share the same disease-causing mechanism and that the same medication is not the best for every patient. This breaks down the usual diagnostic boundaries and defines patient groups that will respond particularly well, less well or not at all to the recommended drug despite having the same diagnosis.
With the help of laboratory diagnostics, HMNC finds out which disease mechanism caused the development of depression in the individual case or which specific pharmacological mechanism is most suitable for treating depression in the individual case. This allows the selected use of antidepressants specifically targeting the disease mechanism. The development of such antidepressants and the accompanying diagnostics are the focus of HMNC.
Facts about depression and anxiety disorders
Anyone can be affected: Depression and anxiety disorders are very common clinical conditions worldwide with serious consequences.
Approximately seven million people in Germany suffer from anxiety disorders, with women being affected twice as often as men. Around four million people in Germany are suffering from depression. Every 10th person has a depression at least once in their life. Depression is the main cause of incapacity for work and early retirement in industrialised countries. Patients with depression have an increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and dementia, e.g. Alzheimer disease. Depression is also a potentially lethal disease: Every year, one million people worldwide take their lives. In Germany alone, more than 10,000 people die each year from of suicide.
In the case of severe forms of the disease, drug treatment is indispensable. The antidepressants available today are generally effective, but they have disadvantages: they work for too few patients, it takes too long for them to work and they have too many side effects.
Depression and anxiety disorders are also expensive: direct and indirect medical costs for depression amount to 22 billion euros alone in Germany, which corresponds to about 0.6% of economic output or 6.5% of our federal budget. Worldwide, depression and anxiety disorders - as estimated by the WHO - cost the health system and the economy 500 billion euros.
HMNC has taken a leading position in personalized depression therapy:
(1) Our ABCB1 test, already on the market, facilitates the selection of the most suitable antidepressants for the individual patient.
(2) HMNC develops drugs with a specific mode of action to which patients respond particularly well when the disease mechanism corresponds to the mechanism of action of the antidepressant. In order to recognise this correspondence between patient and medication, biomarkers are needed, which HMNC has been able to develop in part in collaboration with the Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry.
We have already shown that if a biomarker predicts a good response to a novel and specifically acting antidepressant, the patient will respond earlier and better to that drug. He has a higher chance of remission and fewer side effects. Remission, i.e. freedom from symptoms to a large extent, is the best prerequisite for healing. The more residual symptoms, the greater the risk of relapse.
In the future, this will significantly reduce the burden on health, economic and social systems by shortening treatment times, avoiding relapses and reducing the risk of other diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and dementia.
HMNC sets new standards in dealing with depression and anxiety disorders.
HMNC has taken a leading position in personalized therapy of depression and anxiety disorders.
HMNC guarantees the best possible research on future-oriented antidepressants.
Current StatusProducts & Projects
(*) These tests are preclinically and clinically validated. Their use is limited as a Companion Test.
If you have any questions about the individual projects, please contact us.
Optimization of therapy with common antidepressants
- To be effective, the antidepressant must pass from the bloodstream into the brain tissue. If an antidepressant is not effective, this can also be due to the fact that the passage of transporter molecules, which sit as "guards" at the blood-brain barrier, is made more difficult.
- The blueprint for these guardian molecules is stored in the ABCB1 gene. Variants of the ABCB1 gene determine the efficiency of the guard molecule.
- Knowledge of the ABCB1 gene variants allows the selection of the most suitable antidepressants in individual cases.
- In combination with the therapeutic drug monitoring, i. e. measurement of drug concentration in plasma, the ABCB1 test enables the correct antidepressant to be applied more quickly.
- A meta-analysis based on more than 2600 patients in many different independent clinical trials confirmed the great clinical benefit of the ABCB1 test.
- The ABCB1 test is already on the market in Germany, Switzerland and France.
Project status: available on the market
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious disease that is difficult to diagnose and can affect people who have been exposed to attacks, accidents, terrorist attacks or warfare.
- Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry developed a laboratory test that supports the diagnosis of PTSD.
- The test is based on a permanent change in the activity of some genes that contain the blueprint of molecules involved in the physiological adaptation to the trauma-induced stress response.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder is a major medical problem, especially among members of the American military. Therefore, the Veterans Health Administration is very interested in laboratory tests to help confirm the diagnosis and offer help to those affected.
- The PTSD test was licensed out to the US veteran-led biotech company TruGenomix in 2018 and will be further developed.
Project status: Out-licensed
- Drugs with a specific mode of action can only have a clinical effect if they specifically target the mechanism that causes the disease.
- In about one third of patients with depression, a neurotransmitter produced in excess, CRH (Corticotropin Releasing Hormone) for short, is significantly involved in the development of the disease. In these patients, a drug that blocks the effect of CRH at the CRHR1-receptor in the brain is the drug of choice.
- So far, it has not been possible to find out among which patients elevated CRH in the brain is the cause of the disease. As a result, CRH blocking drugs, so-called CRHR1 antagonists, have not yet entered the market.
- HMNC DIAGNOSTICS has developed and clinically validated a molecular laboratory test that indicates which patients with depression will respond well to a CRH blocker and which will not.
Project status: Ready for clinical trials
- CRH (Corticotropin Releasing Hormone) is a neurotransmitter in the brain that has central tasks in adapting to stress.
- Results from basic research and clinical trials have shown that prolonged overproduction of CRH can cause symptoms of depression. These symptoms can be suppressed by CRHR1 antagonists.
- The HMNC subsidiary CORTIBON has licensed a CRHR1 antagonist from a pharmaceutical company. This substance, CB 2009, is currently being developed preclinically up to phase study readiness.
- The CRHR1 development program follows the concept of personalized medicine: all patients with depression receive the CRH test first. We expect those patients with a positive CRH test to respond very well to the CRHR1 antagonist.
- Depression therapy with CRHR1 antagonists will have two components in the future: (1) the CRH test, which determines suitability for therapy with (2) a CRHR1 antagonist.
Project status: Preclinical Development
CRHR1 antagonist, „CRH“ blocker in anxiety disorders
- Results of the basic research showed the triggering of anxiety states by CRH overactivity in the brain. By experimental application of CRHR1 antagonists, these anxiety symptoms could be prevented.
- In clinical trials, the subsidiary CORTIBON will treat patients suffering from anxiety disorders who have a positive CRH test result with the CRHR1 antagonist CB 2009. We expect to achieve particularly good therapeutic results in this subgroup with CRHR1 antagonists.
Project status: Preclinical Development
CRHR1 antagonist, sleep disorders
- The quality of sleep often deteriorates considerably under psychological stress, but also in the case of numerous physical illnesses.
- Results of basic research and clinical studies show a connection between central overactivity of the messenger CRH and the sleep structure. These sleep electroencephalogram (s-EEG) measurable changes normalize in both patients and animal models, when treated with CRHR1 antagonists.
- The subsidiary CORTIBON will treat patients with stress-related sleep disorders with the CRHR1 antagonist CB 2009 and test in clinical studies whether improvements in sleep quality can be achieved in a defined subgroup of sleep-disturbed patients through this therapy. This sub-group is defined by specific characteristics in the s-EEG.
Project status: Preclinical Development
- Vasopressin is a central messenger substance which, in case of overproduction, induces changes in mental state and behaviour associated with increased stress levels. Clinical results from behavioural- and hormone research indicate an important role of vasopressin in acute stress and at the onset of severe depression.
- The hormone analysis of whether a patient has an increased central vasopressin release is complicated and unsuitable for practical use. To solve this problem, the subsidiary NELIVABON has developed a molecular laboratory test, the V1B test. This makes it possible to obtain short-term information from a single blood sample as to whether vasopressin is elevated in the brain of the tested patient. In these patients, a drug that blocks the effect of vasopressin, a so-called V1B antagonist at its receptor, is the drug of choice.
Projektstatus: Ready for clinical trials
- Clinical research results in patients with depression show the important role that central overactivity plays at the beginning of a disease episode.
- In this case, treatment with a V1B antagonist is the drug of choice. Previous clinical trials with V1B antagonists have been unsuccessful because they could not limit use to patients with proven central vasopressin overactivity.
- The HMNC subsidiary NELIVABON will shortly license a V1B antagonist (NB 415) from a pharmaceutical company. As a result of clinical studies, we expect that treatment with NB 415 will lead to better therapy results if only those patients are treated with the V1B antagonist who had a positive result in the V1B test.
Project status: Phase II
Ketamine in chronic depression
- Ketamine is a drug that has been used as an anaesthetic for over 40 years. New clinical research results show a rapid onset of depression-relieving effects after intravenous application of a low dose of ketamine. Intranasal use of esketamine, an optically active isomer of ketamine, has also shown an antidepressant effect in some studies.
- The main disadvantage of these two forms of application (intravenous, intranasal) are the acute psychosis-like side effects, especially hallucinations and derealization. These side effects observed in about a quarter of patients prevent the widespread use of intravenous ketamine and intranasal esketamine in practice.
- The subsidiary KETABON, founded by HMNC together with the Swiss pharmaceutical company Develco, has developed a pharmaceutical preparation of ketamine that allows oral use. In this preparation, ketamine is packaged with excipients in such a way as to allow a very slow, retarded release of the active substance. In this way, undesirable side effects known from ketamine retard can be avoided without jeopardizing the desired main effect.
- Together with clinical researchers from the Psychiatric Hospital of the University of Zurich, KETABON is conducting a clinical study. This study examines whether ketamine retard in combination with standard antidepressants is superior to monotherapy with antidepressants.
Project status: Phase II
Only an excellent team achieves outstanding success.
Prof. Dr. Dr. Dr. h.c. mult.Florian Holsboer
Company founder and CEO
Florian Holsboer was born in Munich, went to school there, graduated from high school and completed his studies in chemistry and medicine with dissertations (theoretical chemistry or genetics). After further training as a specialist in neurology at the University of Mainz, he habilitated in 1984, was appointed to the Chair of Psychiatry in Freiburg in 1987 and to the Director of the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich in 1989. Florian Holsboer is author or co-author of over 1000 scientific publications and is one of the most cited neuroscientists worldwide.
In July 2014, he decided to leave the Max Planck Institute and take over as CEO of the pharmaceutical company HMNC Brain Health.
Professor Holsboer is one of the most internationally renowned depression researchers. He is known for his discoveries about the connection between stress, depression, anxiety and sleep disorders, the laboratory diagnostic characterization of these diseases and their best treatment. He is considered one of the founders of personalized depression therapy, which, based on laboratory diagnostics, helps optimize the treatment of depression.
Florian Holsboer has received numerous awards, including the Gay Lussac Humboldt Prize (France), the Luis Federico Leloir Prize (Argentina), the Freedom to Discover Award (USA), the Wagner v. Jauregg Medal (Austria), the Anna Monika Price, the Robert Pfleger Research Prize, and the Zülch Prize (all Germany). He holds honorary doctorates from the Universities of Leiden (Holland) and Zurich (Switzerland).
Klaus is Chief Legal Officer at HMNC Brain Health. He is also responsible for Human Resources.
He has almost 20 years of experience in various areas of human resources work as well as in corporate law issues of internationally oriented companies.
Klaus holds a doctorate in law and began his career in the holding company of a leading financial service provider, whose successful IPO he accompanied. In the period that followed, he was quickly promoted to Director of Human Resources Sales in the largest German sales company in the group. In this function, he managed the contractual relationships with several thousand independent commercial agents and was responsible for the further development of the innovative remuneration and career system. He was also responsible for the operational implementation of a stock option program with approximately 10,000 beneficiaries.
In 2011, he moved to a large German family office and since then, as Managing Director, has been responsible for the development and expansion of operational activities, particularly in the venture capital sector. He has been involved in well over 50 international transactions and capital measures and holds supervisory board mandates in several companies.
Klaus has been Managing Director of HMNC Brain Health since 2012 and has accompanied the dynamic development of the HMNC Group from its beginnings to becoming a true innovation leader.
Rainer is Chief Financial Officer of HMNC Brain Health.
Rainer has over 25 years of experience in the financial management of corporate and start-up companies, as well as in the venture capital industry.
He began his career as a Financial Controller at Bertelsmann AG and after 14 years in various positions in the financial management of the group, he moved to the life science venture capital industry.
As Vice President Finance at Global Life Science Ventures, a venture capital fund in the life science sector, he advised on a variety of equity and mezzanine financing transactions and exits, including an IPO on Nasdaq.
Most recently, Mr. Sturm was CFO of the international diagnostics company numares AG. Mr. Sturm carried out several capital measures to finance growth. During his time as CFO, the company made the transition from an R&D company to a commercial, international diagnostics provider.
At HMNC, Rainer is responsible for finance, treasury, corporate finance, investor relations and human resources for HMNC-Group.
Dr. med.Achim Zinggrebe, MBA
Achim is Chief Medical Officer of HMNC Brain Health.
Achim initially worked in internal medicine and radiology for several years before entering the industrial world.
For the last 15 years he has worked for international blue chip corporations, medium-sized companies, start-ups and consulting companies in the fields of pharmaceutical manufacturers, biotechnology and medical technology. His competencies and previous activities include in particular management positions in medicine, marketing and sales as well as in executive management. In addition, he worked as a consultant for various companies and their directors.
Achim holds a doctorate degree in medicine and a Master of Business Administration (Henley Business School, UK).
At HMNC, Achim is responsible for the entire product pipeline from a medical and operational perspective.
Head of Operations
Before joining HMNC Brain Health, Maximilian Döbler spent three years with a major consulting and auditing firm as a risk and compliance management consultant. After that, he spent two years as assistant to the board and project manager at the Maschmeyer Group. The Maschmeyer Group is a family office with the business divisions of venture capital, asset management and real estate, based in Munich, Berlin and San Francisco.
Maximilian Döbler holds a doctorate in law and is responsible at HMNC for the areas of law, corporate governance, business development and investor relations.
Senior Project Manager
Dr. Isabel Schwienbacher is a preclinical and clinical project manager at HMNC Brain Health.
Isabel has 15 years’ experience in pharmaceutical and biotech industries in discovery and development of pharmaceutical therapies for neurological and neuropsychiatric diseases along all stages, from target selection & validation over clinical candidate nomination to clinical Proof of Concept studies.
Her previous positions included leadership roles (laboratory personnel and scientists) with overall responsibility for preclinical in vivo drug discovery, development and repurposing projects in different CNS diseases. She is highly experienced in directing, monitoring and managing external studies at CROs and Universities.
At HMNC she covers scientific leadership, operational management and strategic planning of entire preclinical and clinical research and development programs of pharmaceutical compounds in conjunction with biomarkers for patient stratification.
Since December 2017, Susanne has been involved in preclinical research and development of chemical compounds for the treatment of depressive illness at HMNC Brain Health. She is also working on the expansion of an existing test design.
Previously she studied physiology and cell biology at the Paris-Lodron-University Salzburg (Bachelor) and molecular biology at the Technical University Munich (Master).
Susanne then worked for 4 years on her doctoral thesis ("Identification of functional peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARγ) in mouse brain and its implication in Alzheimer's disease") at the Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry.
Assistant to the CEO
Annette is Assistant to the Management Board at HMNC Brain Health and supports the Management Board administratively and in the operational implementation of the projects.
After her training as a bank clerk, she completed her studies in business psychology (diploma) at the SRH Heidelberg.
Annette has been with HMNC since September 2013 and previously worked in project management for training and consumer goods companies.
Director, Evaluation & Valorization, Neuroscience
Dr. Griebel is currently Senior Director, Strategy and Business Development at Sanofi, France.
Prior to this position, he served as the Global Head of Neuroscience Pharmacology at Sanofi in France and in the US where he played a key role in the discovery, characterization, and clinical testing of a variety of psychoactive compounds in such areas as neuro-degenerative disorders, mood disorders, drug addiction, sleep disorders, and neuro-development at diseases.
Several of these compounds, most of them first-in-class, have made it to Phase III clinical development, some of them are still actively assessed. His basic research discoveries and innovative contributions to drug discovery led to identification of key neurobiological roles for existing or newly discovered neurotransmitter systems and key novel targets associated with the pathophysiology of central nervous diseases.
In addition to his major contributions to the field of drug development, Dr. Griebel has made key contributions to the implementation and standardization of translational models for neurological and psychiatric diseases. For example, he has championed the systematic use of multiple animal models to predict the potential of new compounds prior to movement to the clinical setting.
Dr. Griebel has published over 130 articles in very high-quality journals, including first-authored reports in Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Pharmacology and Therapeutics, and several books and book chapters on the pharmacology of central nervous system disorders.
M.D., Ph.DTeruhiko Higuchi
President of the National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry
Professor Teruhiko Higuchi is currently honorary president of the National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry (NCNP) and president of the Japan Depression Center.
From 2007 until to 2016 he was president of the NCNP, which he served as director general since 2000. He fundamentally reorganized the NCNP, creating one of the biggest and most influential research compounds integrating basic and clinical research in all fields of neurology and psychiatry. Prior to that position, he was at the helm of many other academic institutions.
His key expertise is identifying neurobiological mechanisms causally related to depression. Professor Higuchi’s main focus is on optimizing antidepressant treatment. He authored the treatment guidelines for major depressive disorder for Japan. He served as member of the task force on treatment guidelines for bipolar disorder and established by the World Federation of Societies of Biological Psychiatry (WFSBP).
Professor Higuchi plays a central role at the interface between pharmaceutical industry in Japan and clinical practice. He continuously fosters translation of new antidepressant treatment regimens into clinical practice and advocates individualized medicine in psychiatry.
Professor Higuchi works for several governmental committees related to mental health and was a member of the Science Council of Japan.
Professor Higuchi is highly decorated and awarded for his outstanding scientific achievements in psychiatry. Among the honors, he received the internationally renowned Golden Kraepelin Medal in 2014.
President of Helsana AG, Swiss insurance company
Professor Szucs is currently president of Helsana AG, the largest Swiss insurance company. Prior to that position, he served ten years (2004-2013) as Chairman of BB Biotech AG (SWX) a biotechnology investment company.
Following this office, he acted as Chairman of several publicly quoted biotech companies.
Professor Szucs business experience extends to marketing and development of new medicines (1987-1992, Roche) and to appointments at Universities (Ludwig-Maximillians University, Munich; University of Milan and others) where he implemented health economics.
He held a position as Chief Medical Officer and later as Chief Operating Officer of the Hirslanden Holding, a privately held network of health care providers, including 16 hospitals.
Professor Szucs academic focus is on pharmacology and specifically on personalized medicine, which he anticipates to be the coming breakthrough not only in oncology, but also in complex diseases such as cardiovascular disorders and depression. Another research interest is public health, which he fosters as Chairman of the Executive Board of the Master Program in Public Health of the Universities of Basel, Bern and Zürich.
Besides his position as fully tenured Professor of Pharmaceutical Medicine, he currently serves as Director of the European Center of Pharmaceutical Medicine at the University of Basel.
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