Identifying New Non-Opioid Therapeutics for Pain

LSP investigators are developing novel non-opioid treatments for pain with greater long-term efficacy and lower potential for abuse.

Existing therapies for pain are often ineffective or liable to abuse, contributing to our current addiction and overdose crisis. However, developing non-opioid analgesics is one of the most challenging problems in contemporary drug discovery. An ambitious multi-institution project funded by DARPA (the Panacea Research Program) aims to develop novel small molecules and biologics for treating chronic pain and inflammation, while expanding computation-enabled methods for drug discovery platforms. Our approach is target agnostic, with screening centered on cell-based phenotypes that are indicative of nociceptor-specific silencing of channels and other proteins involved in drug sensation.

The project uses diverse cutting-edge pharmacology tools, including iPSC-derived neuronal drug screening, mass spectrometry proteomics, protein structure prediction and docking, computation-assisted synthesis planning, and advanced AI-assisted behavioral assays. Related efforts are applying similar approaches to both chemotherapy-induced and diabetic peripheral neuropathy. This program is actively recruiting medicinal chemists, chemical biologists, and neurobiologists.

Jayakar S, Shim J, Jo S, Bean BP, SingeƧ I, Woolf CJ. Developing nociceptor-selective treatments for acute and chronic pain. Sci Transl Med. 2021 Nov 10;13(619):eabj9837. PMID: 34757806.

Lee S, Jo S, Talbot S, Zhang H-XB, Kotoda M, Andrews NA, Puopolo M, Liu PW, Jacquemont T, Pascal M, Heckman LM, Jain A, Lee J, Woolf CJ, Bean BP. Novel charged sodium and calcium channel inhibitor active against neurogenic inflammation. Elife. 2019 25;8. PMCID: PMC6877086.

Yekkirala AS, Roberson DP, Bean BP, Woolf CJ. Breaking barriers to novel analgesic drug development. Nat Rev Drug Discov. 2017 Nov;16(11):810. PMCID: PMC6934078.

Jain A, Gyori BM, Hakim S, Bunga S, Taub DG, Ruiz-Cantero MC, Tong-Li C, Andrews N, Sorger PK, Woolf CJ. Nociceptor neuroimmune interactomes reveal cell type- and injury-specific inflammatory pain pathways. bioRxiv; 2023. PMCID: PMC9915698.

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