A team led by Grant Churchill and Sridhar Vasudevan from Pharmacology, in collaboration with Phil Cowen from Psychiatry, used a database of 'failed' drugs, found to be safe but ineffective for their proposed use, to identify ebselen as a possible alternative to lithium, the main treatment for people who are bipolar.
Ebselen was under development as a treatment for stroke, but was abandoned by its manufacturer in the final phase of clinical trials. However, those trials proved that the drug was safe for use in humans. Initial tests of ebselen as a treatment for bipolar disorder were carried out in mice. That research, reported in early 2014, found that results were promising, so the researchers were able to use the existing safety information to fast track an initial trial of ebselen in people.