Interview with Professor Mitul Mehta, Director of the Centre for Innovative Therapeutics (C-FIT)

Profile photo of Prof Mitul Mehta

Mitul Mehta is the Director of the Centre for Innovative Therapeutics, Professor of Neuroimaging & Psychopharmacology at King’s College London, and Lead of the NIHR Maudsley BRC's theme in Experimental Medicine and Novel Therapeutics.

Mitul joined King’s College London as a post-doctoral researcher in Neuroimaging in 2003 with the aim of setting up a research group focused on pharmacological neuroimaging using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) methodology. Before joining King’s, he worked with positron emission tomography (PET) at Imperial College London for several years as an MRC Training Fellow. A Wellcome Trust Value in People Award enabled the transition. At King’s his group led on quantitative methods to identify drug mechanisms and scan with very fast acting drugs. These methods are used to understand existing compounds as well as assay novel compounds and the group tested various mechanisms, including in collaboration with the pharmaceutical industry. 

Please can you give us an overview of your role? 

I’ve been Director of the Centre for Innovative Therapeutics (C-FIT) since 2020. The Centre was originally envisaged as a route to increase our commercial collaborations and involvement in trials. I took over as Director just before the Covid-19 pandemic, which meant two things: it was challenging to keep the work going, but there was also increased accessibility (through virtual and remote meetings) to our PIs so we were able to rapidly build awareness of C-FIT and form connections. This was much faster than if in the pre-pandemic environment, where people were often away at conferences and meetings. 

How did you get interested in research? 

I got interested in research whilst studying for my degree and I was fortunate to get a scholarship for a summer internship at King’s College Hospital from Cambridge. At KCH I undertook neuropsychological assessments of people who were HIV positive and negative. I was fascinated at this important perspective on the difficulties experienced by people with this diagnosis. A few years later during a Research Assistant job I designed my own study and collected data. I loved the feeling that I was creating new knowledge and from when I first got results I was hooked!  

What are some of the C-FIT projects that you’ve enjoyed working on the most, or are most proud of 

When I started as Director there was an ongoing project to bring clozapine point of care (POC) testing to patients – and it is now in use. It was brought to the clinic by C-FIT, which facilitated the study, which was then led by the Psychosis Studies Department and pharmacy. We’re very proud of that achievement.  

We have made some strong partnerships with UK- based companies. This has led to the completion of two phase 1 trials of novel formulations of existing drugs, one of which was co-funded by Wellcome. Having worked with these companies from an early stage we’re pleased that these partnerships are continuing into the next steps of development 

The combination of designing studies, while integrating into pathways of development (which normally occurs in industry) is exciting as you need to get the science right, but also ensure it is the best use of resource to move things forward. 

For example, a recent project has been to work with BOD Pharma, a company who are constantly innovating novel delivery mechanisms for drugs which are already in the clinic, or we think will have clinical benefit. C-FIT is positioned to work closely with these companies and help shape the work. This project has allowed psychiatrists to prescribe very controlled doses of cannabis flower to inpatients with cannabis use disorder. which we know can be used to treat this.  

We worked with the company through a number of stages, from the initial possibility, to navigating through pharmacy, getting an agreement and then identifying psychiatrists who are willing to work with us, and understand the value for their patients. Although clinicians rapidly understand these ideas and they often help identify solutions for patients, they rarely have the capacity to follow them through into a feasible solution. This is where we come in: working with these small companies to bring solutions to patients. 

What are some of the big challenges in mental health and neuroscience which C-FIT is tackling?  

At C-FIT we’ve worked across multiple disorders. We have facilitated a grant that has been funded to test ketamine in people with anorexia and treatment resistant depression (TRD). Working across study design, funder requirements and the company relationships was a significant challenge for this, and other studies – but it is hugely rewarding when you see the funding being awarded  and further  funding success.  

The challenges we face at C-FIT are the same challenges faced by mental health  and neuroscience research – we are not seeing sufficient new therapeutic options coming through into clinic. And for therapies we do have, there are many patients for whom they don’t work or aren't tolerated. C-FIT is not only looking at collaborations with companies in areas of experimental medicine to test novel therapeutics, but we're also working with companies to reimagine existing therapies to enhance their efficacy and reduce their side effects. 

It takes a  long time to realise patient benefit from a novel therapy or therapeutic innovation. By working with existing treatments and areas of repurposing, there’s a potential for timelines to be shorter. And for us to develop clinical experience and collect pilot data to support ideas before committing to expensive clinical trials.  

What does an average working day look like for you? 

I lead the Experimental Medicine and Novel Therapeutics theme at the NIHR Maudsley BRC and I have my own research group, so combined with C-FIT I don’t have an average working day! There is a huge variety of different tasks I engage with every day. I might be reviewing results for a study, in a study meeting deciding if a participant is eligible to take part or not, writing or reviewing a grant. There is one thing guaranteed - my day will be peppered with meetings. The wonderful thing about working in this field is that you work with the best people and companies from all over the world.  

How do you enjoy spending your time outside of work? 

Spending time with my family is top of my list!  

I’ve just stepped down from board of trustees I was a founding member of (The Bromley Homeless Shelter). My role with them  took up quite a bit of time, so I now have more free time than usual. I’ve increased the amount of cycling I do and recently cycled from London to Paris with some friends.   

What vision do you have for the future of C-FIT? 

I would like to see wider awareness of C-FIT in the IoPPN and for us to be working nationally to support endeavours to accelerate research for patient benefit, unrestricted by their location. I want us to be making a sustained/ impact on patients’ lives either through efficiencies in their treatment delivery and monitoring or through novel therapeutics.  

Follow C-FIT on LinkedIn: to find out more about their work and the team 

Meet the C-FIT team

Tags: Experimental Medicine and Novel Therapeutics - BRC Interview Series -

By NIHR Maudsley BRC at 17 Nov 2023, 09:00 AM

Back to Blog List