The GABA Labs Team

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.

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GABA Labs – Leadership team

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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.

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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 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.

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 Jose Prieto Garcia is a Lecturer in Pharmacognosy at UCL’s Centre for Pharmacognosy and Phytotherapy. His specialties include: Pharmacognosy, Pharmacological and Toxicological Effects of Medicinal Plants, Phytochemical Analysis, Chemoinformatics.

Jose’s current research lines focus on herb – drug interactions, lipidomics of cancer cells and development of new NMR-based metabolomic strategies and applying artificial intelligence to drug discovery.  Past research lines include the modulation of eicosanoid release by Traditional Chinese Medicines, 5-LOX inhibitors in skin inflammation, antioxidant and antinitrosative properties of natural products, preclinical development of antiallergic food supplements, and the ecological role of plant steroids.

Jose has published more than 50 papers and presented over 70 communications to congresses.

GABA Labs – Science 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.

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.

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.

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.

Scientific Associates

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.

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.

After his PhD at Bristol University on brain imaging, Jim continued this work as part of the Imperial College team of Professor Nutt and then as a Imperial Research Fellow where he developed new ways of merging different types of imaging data.

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.

Dr Sue Wilson uses brain imaging tools such as electroencephalogram (EEG) readings to measure brain activity during sleep in order to better understand how drugs affect both neurotransmitter actions and the quality of sleep.

Sue is a leading researcher in the effects of a variety of drugs including anti-depressants, opioids and benzodiazepines on brain receptor sites. As well as understanding the molecular mechanisms of sleep medications, her work also focuses on the treatment of conditions such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse and sleep disorders such as insomnia.

Sue has authored over 150 scientific papers.

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