The GABA Labs Team

** Join the team – GABA Labs is hiring **

GABA Labs is a pioneering, science-driven, R&D innovator applying science in three key areas:

  • neuropsychopharmacology and synthetic chemistry
  • bioprospecting and the use of AI
  • GABAergic botanicals

Here’s the team doing this work.

GABA Labs – Leadership team


David Orren is an experienced leader of businesses that bring innovation, change and opportunity for wider societal transformation. He shapes business strategy and is responsible for the commercialisation of GABA Labs’ technology.

David brings 20 years international experience enabling disruptive technologies to secure market engagement. With a degree in Engineering and an MBA (US), he began his career as a Chartered Engineer driving process automation and innovation with industry leaders such as Ford Motor Company and Thorn EMI. David has led international organisations through strategic change and into new markets in the UK, Europe, Asia and the Americas. David founded a technology company in Silicon Valley achieving market leadership within four years. More recently, David has worked with founders of high-potential innovation companies to assist with route to market and organisation building.

David co-founded GABA Labs with Professor David Nutt to realise their vision of bringing greater choices to adult social drinkers.


Psychiatrist and neuropsychopharmacologist Professor David Nutt is a leader in the study of the brain, drugs, and conditions such as addiction, anxiety and sleep.

David spent two years as Chief of Section of Clinical Science in the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism at the National Institute of Health (NIH) in America before setting up the psychopharmacology unit at Bristol University. In 2008 he moved to Imperial College London as the Edmond J Safra chair in Neuropsychopharmacology.

David is a prolific speaker and successful author on scientific matters. He won the Transmission Prize for Communicating Science in 2014. David has published over 500 scientific papers, over 30 books, contributed to 8 government reports, and has edited the Journal of Psychopharmacology for 20 years. David earned the distinction of being included by Times Eureka magazine in 2010 as one of the 100 most important figures in British science, and he received the prestigious John Maddox Prize in 2013 (a joint initiative between Sense About Science and the scientific journal Nature).

David co-founded GABA Labs with David Orren in order to achieve their vision of bringing greater choices to adult social drinkers.

GABA Labs – Scientific Advisory Board

Professor John Atack is a molecular pharmacologist with over 25 years of experience in drug discovery, specializing in neuroscience. He is currently the Director of the Medicines Discovery Institute at Cardiff University.

His career spans both academia and the pharmaceutical industry, with a focus on drug discovery. Atack also serves as Co-Director of the Medicines Discovery Institute, leading research in new drug identification and scientific translation for patient benefit.

Additionally, he played a key role in the establishment of the Cardiff University Translational Drug Discovery Centre, launched in March 2019.

Dr Delia Belelli has over three decades of experience as a professional neuroscientist in the broad field of ion channels neuropharmacology and neurophysiology. Her research has investigated how changes in neuronal activity relate to changes in mood and behaviours with a specific but not limited focus on the GABAA receptors and neurosteroids.

Currently working as a freelance senior scientific consultant, Dr Belelli has held previously academic roles at the University of Southern California, University of Dundee, University of Copenhagen and is currently an Honorary Reader at the University of Dundee.

Professor James Cook has worked in the fields of drug development, drug discovery and medicinal chemistry for over 40 years, currently positioned as the Distinguished Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

James has lead research groups over 40 years focusing on a number of applications in medicinal chemistry, notably the development of new anti-anxiety drugs that lack muscle-relaxant, ataxic and sedative-hypnotic side effects. These would improve the treatment of conditions such as anxiety disorders, panic attacks, PTSD, and agoraphobia, and would have less potential for abuse.

He has published nearly 500 scientific papers and has sat on the editorial board for nine different journals including Clinical Pharmacology: Advances and Applications.

Dr Joubert Gama is a senior pharmaceutical physician and final signatory with extensive experience as senior medical officer in major pharmaceutical drug development programs.

Joubert is experienced in diverse therapeutic areas: anaesthesia, bio-surgery, cardiovascular (hypertension and CHD), CNS (Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, restless legs syndrome, migraine, peripheral neuropathic pain), dermatology, gastroenterology, haemato-oncology, haemophilia, infant and adult nutrition, psychiatry (major depressive disorders, anxiety and schizophrenia), renal, women’s health, and vaccines (adult and paediatric).

Joubert’s medical background is in general surgery/trauma/General Practice and Drug Dependancy.

Professor Stephen Husbands aims to improve our understanding of the molecular mechanisms that underpin neuropsychological diseases such as depression and anxiety, with a focus on substance abuse.

He has been a Professor in the Department of Pharmacy & Pharmacology at the Centre for Therapeutic Innovation at the University of Bath since 2012. In recent years he has focused on how drugs that bind to opioid receptors in the brains, such as buprenorphine and naloxone, can be used to combat addiction to cocaine, opioids and other drugs. His work on the molecular characteristics of these drugs also contributes to improving our understanding of how changes in brain chemistry can influence neurological conditions such as insomnia, depression and anxiety.

Stephen has published over 150 scientific papers.

Dr Paul Jenner qualified in medicine from St Mary’s Hospital, University of London. After eight years in clinical medicine, he spent thirty years in the pharmaceutical industry. He is a Member of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine of the Royal College of Physicians and a Member of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology.

Paul has held a variety of roles in clinical development, medical affairs and marketing in the neuroscience area. He was formerly Vice President, Commercial Development, Psychiatry Clinical Development & Product Strategy, GlaxoSmithKline and, from 2002 to 2016, was Global Head, New Products, Neuroscience, Novartis AG based in Basel, Switzerland.

Paul has extensive worldwide strategic marketing experience in USA, Europe and Asia with responsibilities for products in depression/anxiety, psychosis, ADHD, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, stroke, neuropathic pain and migraine.

Head of the Neuroimaging of Reward Group in the Department of Psychology at Reading University, Associate Professor Ciara McCabe brings together the psychology and pharmacology of psychiatric disorders to better understand how they develop and how they can be treated.

Ciara is a leading researcher of the reward systems in the human brain that are involved in conditions such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and anhedonia (a diminished ability to experience pleasure). Ciara and her team investigate how substances, including opioids and cannabinoids, affect the brain’s reward systems with the goal of improving treatments for addiction.

Ciara has authored more than 50 scientific papers, and is an Associate Editor of the journals Mood and Anxiety Disorders, Frontiers in Psychiatry, and Translational Developmental Psychiatry.

Professor Keshavan Niranjan studies how engineering principles can be harnessed to create safe and environmentally sustainable methods of creating processed food.

As Professor of Food Bioprocessing at the University of Reading, where he has been a faculty member since 1989, Keshavan research covers a range of applications. These include reducing the health impacts of deep fried products, devising compostable packaging, creating more efficient methods to extract nutrients from fruits and vegetables, and improving the stability of foams and bubbles in products such as frothed milk.

Keshavan has published over 125 research papers, is a Fellow of the Institute of Food Science and Technology, and is an Editor of the Journal of Food Engineering.

Dr Louise Paterson is a clinical research scientist specialising in the study of brain mechanisms and the neuropharmacology underlying addiction. Louise brings a particular understanding of how chemical dependence impacts brain function, and of the brain pathways involved in relapse.

Louise is highly skilled in the use of functional neuroimaging tools to produce state-of-the-art brain imagery for use in the development of better treatments.

Louise is also experienced in functional magnetic resonance imaging to study the brains of people who have recently quit using drugs or alcohol, to better understand what makes some people vulnerable to relapse.

Professor Simon Ward is the Sêr Cymru Professor of Translational Drug Discovery and the Director of the Medicines Discovery Institute at Cardiff University.

He joined Cardiff University in 2017 to establish the Medicines Discovery Institute, building on his previous work at the University of Sussex. As a medicinal chemist and an international expert, Ward has extensive experience in the field, including a significant tenure at Glaxo SmithKline.

His work at the Medicines Discovery Institute centers on developing new drugs to address mental health and neurodegenerative disorders, focusing on translating advances in disease understanding into practical treatments​.

GABA Labs – R&D team

Dr Alan Borthwick is an experienced senior medicinal chemist, with a successful career providing expertise and support in drug design and medicinal chemistry to a wide range of sectors including academia, biotech and the pharmaceutical industry.

With a PhD in Organic Chemistry from the University of London, Alan has over 35 years experience in assisting with drug design for major pharmaceutical companies, including numerous positions as a senior project lead to drug discovery teams. Personal successes include producing the drug Fluparoxan and the once-a-day antihypertensive Lacidipine while Scientific Manager for GlaxoSmithKline.

Alan has published over 65 scientific papers and is a named inventor on 36 patent applications, and was an expert advisor and consultant to the Wellcome Trust’s Expert Review Group.

Claire obtained her PhD at Bristol University using sleep EEG to explore new treatments for depression. She then joined Professor Nutt’s team at Imperial College to run interventional studies of new treatments for alcoholism and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Dr Meg Spriggs is responsible for bioprospecting target compounds in nature.

She completed her PhD in Psychology at the University of Auckland, New Zealand in 2018, focusing on developing electrophysiological measures of neuroplasticity in ageing and cognitive decline.  Meg’s research activity has included cognitive testing, human electrophysiology and neuroimaging (e.g., EEG, MRI), drug studies, and an overall understanding of the relationship between brain function and behaviour.

Neuropsychopharmacologist Dr Tyacke is a clinical research scientist specialising in development of new tools, including new ligands, to image the brain.

Ligands are chemicals injected into human subjects during brain scans, binding to specific neuro-receptors in the brain, thus allowing neuroscientists to visualise the response across different target regions of the brain through PET scans. The author of more than 100 research papers, Dr Tyacke is currently Research Manager at the Centre for Neuropsychopharmacology and Molecular Imaging at Imperial College London. He is a member of the British Pharmacological Society and the British Association of Psychopharmacology.

John King Underwood has a successful track record in leading computational chemistry teams in “big pharma”, latterly GSK. He has since set up his own consulting company providing this service independently.

Owen Durant studied Pharmacognosy at the UCL School of Pharmacy and worked as a Natural Product Researcher at the Jodrell Laboratory, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. He is the founder of a natural medecine website and the publishing imprint Phytoversity. His book ‘An Introduction to Natural Medicine: From Plant to Patient’ was published in 2018.

Ramona is an expert in herbal medicines with a degree in Chinese Medicine. She provides plant research, advice and guidance to the Plant Science team, contributing to the functionality of the team’s GABAergic blends.

Vanessa manages the production of GABA Labs’ botanical liquids, particularly the Sentia range of GABAergic drinks. A core member of the Plant Science team, her expertise is in understanding and blending botanical ingredients based on their functional properties, taste profiles, textures and colours. Vanessa also oversees all the logistics and planning for Sentia Spirits.

Collaborative Partners

Dr. Alex Shaw specializes in neurobiology, computational, imaging, and theoretical neurosciences, psychiatry, and psychedelics in the Department of Psychology at the University of Exeter.

His research focuses on understanding the pathophysiology of psychiatric diseases using multimodal imaging techniques like M/EEG, MRI, and PET, along with pharmaco-imaging, psychedelic and anaesthetic drugs, machine learning, and computational modeling.

Shaw conducts pharmaco-M/EEG studies on drug effects on neuronal function in psychiatric diseases and develops neurophysiologically-inspired brain models. He also serves as co-director of Business Engagement and Innovation, MRI liaison at Exeter.

Professor Anne Lingford-Hughes is the Head of the Division of Psychiatry and Professor of Addiction Biology at Imperial College London. She specializes in the pharmacological treatment of alcohol and opiate addictions and is a Consultant Psychiatrist at Central North West London NHS Foundation Trust.

Her research involves neuroimaging and neuropharmacological challenges to understand addiction’s neurobiology. Lingford-Hughes has significantly contributed to the field, including co-developing guidelines for substance misuse and addiction management.

She holds a medical degree from Oxford University, a PhD from Cambridge University, and trained in psychiatry at The Bethlem and Maudsley Hospitals and the Institute of Psychiatry.

Dr Chris Alford is associate professor in applied psychology at the University of the West of England (UWE).

He has participated in collaborative research on sleep and fatigue with the civil Aviation Authority, BAE Systems and the Ford Motor Company and also the pharmaceutical industry. He is currently researching the effects of sleep loss, extended performance, sleep disorders, stress, complementary medicine and neutraceuticals or functional foods. 

He is the author of over 70 conference papers and reports, as well as over 30 refereed articles, earning his PhD in Psychology at Leeds University and holding academic positions at Aston University and Warwick University.

Dr. Jerome Swinny, Professor of Neuropharmacology at the University of Portsmouth, earned his PhD in Neurobiology from the University of Groningen, Netherlands. His postdoctoral work spanned the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Oxford.

Joining the University of Portsmouth in 2009, he was promoted to Professor in 2020. Dr. Swinny leads the Neurochemical Anatomy & Psychopharmacology research group and oversees neuroscience and neuropharmacology education in the School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Science.

Dr. Matt Wall, a researcher with a focus on functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) applications and methods, primarily works in clinical studies and psychopharmacology. His research includes projects on Parkinson’s disease, breathing physiology, sex hormones, chronic pain, and the effects of cannabis on the brain. He also explores the neural substrates of smoking using fMRI combined with electronic cigarettes.

Dr. Wall has collaborated on numerous projects with significant figures and institutions such as Imperial College London and has been a named collaborator on a £1.3 million MRC grant for a study on gut hormones and addiction.

Professor Stefano Casalotti, Honorary Senior Lecturer in Neurobiology at the University of East London, focuses on understanding neuronal responses at cellular and molecular levels. His research primarily utilizes the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster to explore the mechanisms of alcohol-induced behavioral changes, relevant to human drug addiction.

Casalotti’s work contributes to understanding Alcohol Use Disorder by studying specific proteins and receptors in fruit flies and their responses to stress and pharmacological agents.

He holds a PhD in Neuroscience from Imperial College and is a Senior Fellow at the Higher Education Academy.

Professor Verity Brown, an Honorary Professor at the University of St Andrews, specializes in the study of response control, particularly in the neural basis of movement and executive functions like attention, expectation, and planning.

Her research involves a variety of neuroscientific methods, including psychopharmacology, neurophysiology, and behavior analysis in both humans and experimental animals. She has a particular interest in the frontal cortex and its basal ganglia circuits, focusing on how these areas influence response selection processes.