On a wintry afternoon in April, Tim Tully and I stood in a laboratory at Helicon Therapeutics, watching the future of human memory and cognition--or at least a plausible version of that future--take shape. Outside, a freak spring snowstorm lashed at the Long Island landscape. I mention the weather because it reminded both Tully and me of winters from our childhoods in the Midwest many years ago. The enduring power of those memories--and the biological processes that record and preserve them in the brain--lie at the heart of an incipient revolution in neuropharmacology that is unfolding in small, relatively unknown labs like this one in Farmingdale, N.Y.
Tully, a neuroscientist at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and founder of Helicon, has been one of the leading protagonists in the race to develop a new class of drugs that might improve memory in the memory impaired--drugs that grow out of an increasingly sophisticated molecular and mechanistic understanding of how we can remember everything from snowstorms more than 30 years ago to where we put our car keys 30 minutes ago.
This article was originally published with the title The Quest for a Smart Pill.