Dr. Glenn Cornett
Seeking Medical and Musical Miracles
By Stuart Diamond, Editor-in-Chief
This is an only in New York story.
Silicon Valley has it prodigy, genius entrepreneurs. Paris has its “enfant terrible” artistes. But only in New York can you find both under one roof, no less in one mind.
To begin, Dr. Cornett holds an MD with Distinction in Research from the University of Michigan, and a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA. His dissertation was on human deep-brain responses to musical stimuli. He has also studied music composition and performance in a number of settings, including composition at the Darmstadt IMD during Summers 2014/16 and Indonesian gamelan composition/performance (in Bali and Java) during Summer 2015.
For years, Dr. Cornett has led two lives. In daylight, at least on the weekdays, he runs Pastorus, a firm he founded in 2008, focused on drugs for autism, schizophrenia, and addiction. Then as the sun sets (and add weekends to the mix), his loft, where he lives and works, transforms into Spectrum – a performance venue focused on contemporary concert (“classical”) music.
What kind of contemporary concert is heard at Spectrum? Quoting from the venue’s website: “Spectrum advocates for and supports innovation and virtuosity in the arts. Our principal emphasis is on concert music of the 20th and 21st Centuries. We endeavor to give special consideration to music that we feel is under-represented in the United States, particularly academically-oriented music from Europe or influenced significantly by European developments, such as New Complexity and spectralism. We also with pleasure and gratitude present significant amounts of music by local (NYC area) and other US composers, particularly those still actively working”. That puts Spectrum at the far left of the avant-garde world of music.
And with a track record of over 2000 concerts and counting, Spectrum is arguably one of the most important centers of the avant-garde in New York, if not the world.
But before we delve into Glenn’s artistic endeavors, let’s return to his medical work.
Dr. Cornett’s research is focused on the use of Oxytocin for the remediation of symptoms related to autism, schizophrenia, and addiction. To understand the significance of his work one must first look at the scope of the problems he is trying to address – and the potential benefits that Oxytocin could bring to the millions of patients affected.
Autism afflicts an estimated 2,500,000 patients in the US. No drugs are approved by the US FDA to treat core symptoms of autism. Intranasal delivered Oxytocin, however, has shown statistically significant improvement in core symptoms of autism in placebo-controlled trials on four continents. Intranasal Oxytocin provides the most promising near-term opportunity to treat core symptoms of autism.
Schizophrenia appears in 1.1% of the US adult population. Despite successful, multi-billion-dollar drugs on the market, problems persist with side effects (e. g., obesity, diabetes), and deficits in cognition and social function remain untreated, complicating relationships and employment. In placebo-controlled clinical trials, Intranasal Oxytocin not only improved aspects of schizophrenia treated by current drugs, but also demonstrated improvements in cognitive and social function symptoms.
And finally, addiction: No drugs have been approved to treat addiction to marijuana, cocaine or methamphetamine. No new drugs have been approved in the US for alcohol use since 2004. Current addiction drugs tend to treat craving without addressing stress or anxiety. Placebo-controlled clinical trials of Intranasal Oxytocin have demonstrated decreased craving, anxiety and stress in marijuana dependence and alcohol abuse.
And so what is this wonder – Oxytocin?
Oxytocin is a powerful hormone and acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. When we hug, kiss, or have sex with a loved one, Oxytocin levels increase; hence, Oxytocin is often called “the love hormone.” In fact, the hormone plays a huge role in all pair bonding.
Given that Oxytocin is a naturally occurring hormone that has clinically demonstrated impact on the symptoms of millions of patients around the world, one can only wonder why aren’t Oxytocin treatments available.
At present, Oxytocin is prescribed only for a limited number of uses, such as the induction of labor and reduction of bleeding after a mother gives birth. The challenge is delivery. For Oxytocin to be effective for autism, schizophrenia, and addiction it must reach the brain, getting past the blood-brain barrier.
The current, effective means for Oxytocin to reach the brain is intranasal – spraying an aerosol of Oxytocin into the nasal passages. For a while, there was an Intranasal Oxytocin product on the market. However, the product was withdrawn more than 20 years ago when the product’s owner merged to form a larger company. Several leading academic medical centers have been using intranasal oxytocin for brain-related challenges such as autism, schizophrenia, addiction and obesity. These medical centers make an impressive, globe-spanning list, including, Stanford, UCSF and Harvard in the US, Cambridge in England, University of Sydney in Australia and University of Tokyo in Japan. Despite the positive experience at these and other universities, intranasal oxytocin remains off the US market, nor has it been launched anywhere to treat these challenges of autism, addiction, etc. – primarily because of lack of patent protection. In other words, pharmaceutical companies believe they could making enough money to offset development, marketing, and other costs.
Major pharma’s belief that it could not generate enough income from the development of Oxytocin is preventing a natural hormonal treatment that could improve the lives of millions and their families who bear the burdens of autism, schizophrenia, and addiction.
Recognizing both the medical and market opportunities, Dr. Cornett has been traveling the world working with the leading researchers in the field, organizing a combination of better formulations, superior intranasal delivery and basic research to create a web of patent protection. This will allow major pharmaceutical companies to re-engage the promise of Oxytocin. Hopefully, in the not too distant future, there will be new products that have a positive impact on the lives of millions struggling with autism, schizophrenia, and addiction.
But as the sun sets on the day, let’s take a look at Glenn’s other life.
He has just moved the Spectrum music series from Manhattan’s Lower East Side to a renovated factory building in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn. In this new and larger space, Glenn’s team hosts multiple events each week – ranging from some the best classical music artists to the grungiest independent electronic rockers and – esoteric improvisations to the exotica of the musical cultures from every corner of the world.
If you ask Glenn about his own musical work, he would describe his art as based on the following:
1) Themes based on mathematical transformations of climate-change data
2) Use of electric guitar modified by/in conjunction with Max/MSP and Ableton Live
3) Indonesian gamelan samples and structures.
He is also a composer/performer, playing guitar, electronics, piano, and synthesizer.
And yet no matter how late these events go into the evening, you will find Glenn at the crack of dawn the next morning pursuing another passion – running. Each year, he travels throughout the world seeking out the great marathons. Add to that a black belt in Karate and we have a small entrée point into the multifaceted world of Dr. Glenn Cornett.
Oxytocin: Further Background
Oxytocin (OT) is a naturally-occurring human hormone released by the pituitary gland. In 1909, Henry Dale discovered OT’s role in causing contractions of the uterus, later receiving a Nobel Prize for his work. Within a few years, doctors began using extracts containing OT to assist labor. Intranasally-dosed OT (InOT) was launched as a saline (salt water) spray formulation in 1960 to assist nursing mothers in the production of milk. InOT was taken off the US market in 1997 after its originator’s (Sandoz’) 1996 merger to form Novartis. This InOT formulation has been used in most of the OT trials in autism, alcohol abuse, schizophrenia, drug abuse, anxiety and other psychiatric disorders.
In 1992, Thomas Insel (until recently head of the US National Institute of Mental Health) published a paper describing OT’s role in forming social bonds in rodents. About a decade later, Kosfeld and Heinrichs published a 2005 Nature paper reporting increased trust in OT studies involving 194 human subjects. Early, notable autism studies included Eric Hollander’s demonstration in autism-spectrum patients of reductions in repetitive behaviors (2003) and improvements in social cognition (2007), followed by reports from Adam Guastella (the first OT trial in pediatric patients with autism; 2010) and Elissar Andari’s paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2012). Schizophrenia gained traction soon after autism, with important studies published by David Feifel (2010) and Cort Pedersen (2011). OT has been shown to reduce anxiety in a number of settings., OT involvement in orgasm (particularly in women,) suggests promise in treating sexual dysfunction.
Clinical trials showing OT effective vs. alcohol abuse came out more recently from Cort Pedersen (2013) and Adam Guastella (publication pending). A recent (2013), placebo-controlled study has shown OT to reduce craving, anxiety, and stress in marijuana-dependent patients.
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 Hollander E, et al. Oxytocin increases retention of social cognition in autism. Biol Psychiatry. 2007 Feb 15;61(4):498-503.
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 McRae-Clark AL, et al. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2013 August ; 228(4): 623–631. Effect of oxytocin on craving and stress response in marijuana-dependent individuals: a pilot study.