100 pages

Date published 
May 2008

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Blood-Brain Barrier Overview


Cover ImageBlood-Brain Barrier: Bridging Options for Drug Discovery and Development

By Allan B. Haberman, PhD





  • Strategies to develop small- and large-mol­ecule CNS drugs capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier (BBB) 
  • Interviews with leading researchers who are aggressively tackling the BBB challenge in CNS drug discovery and development 
  • Analysis of results from a Blood-Brain Barrier Survey, responded to by a range of companies involved in CNS research and drug discovery/development 


CNS diseases are a major focus of the pharmaceutical industry, with CNS drugs representing some of its most successful products. These include Pfizer’s Zoloft (sertraline, for treatment of depression and certain types of anxiety disorders), Lilly’s Cymbalta (duloxetine, for treatment of depression) and Bristol-Myers Squibb’s/Otsuka’s Abilify (aripiprazole, for treatment of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia). However, drug discovery and development researchers experience difficulty developing CNS drugs that complete clinical trials and win regulatory approval—especially drugs which meet major unmet needs in the CNS area, such as Alzheimer’s disease. The vast majority of drugs fail to cross the BBB, which is causing a major bottleneck in successful development of CNS drug candidates.

This report reviews the discovery, design and development of small- and large-molecule drugs that can efficiently cross the BBB. This includes more traditional, medicinal chemistry-based methods, as well as approaches that exploit carrier-mediated transport (CMT) and receptor-mediated transport (RMT).   Also covered in the report is use of nanoparticle technology to enable BBB penetration.  Further, the report presents in vitro and in vivo assays as well as imaging methods to ascertain a drug’s ability to cross the BBB and reach its target.

The report includes results of a survey of researchers and executives—from corporate and academic organizations—who are active in the CNS drug development area. The survey explores their involvement in BBB-related technologies and programs. The survey results are discussed in terms of what they reveal about the current state of BBB research and the future potential for developing drugs that are able to cross it.



About the Author 

Allan B. Haberman, PhD, is Principal of Haberman Associates (www.biopharmconsortium.com), a consulting firm specializing in science and technology strategy for pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and other life science companies. He is also a Principal and Founder of the Biopharmaceutical Consortium, an expert team formed to assist life science companies, research groups, and emerging enterprises to identify and exploit promising, breakthrough technologies. He is also the author of numerous publications on the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, their technologies and products, and on the major therapeutic areas for drug discovery and development. Formerly the associate director of the Biotechnology Engineering Center at Tufts University, he received his PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology from Harvard University.