Taking the pain out of drug discovery

Pain will affect everyone during their lifetime, so the importance of the topic of a one-day symposium at SCI HQ which took place on 26 March 2009 – Taking the pain out of drug discovery – cannot be over-stressed. It assessed the status of research into future pain therapies, reporting on significant new drug discoveries.

Opening the scientific programme with a plenary lecture was Simon Tate from GlaxoSmithKline, who highlighted the challenges facing the pharmaceutical industry in bringing novel analgesic medicines, with an improvement in efficacy, responder rate and safety to the market. He discussed some of the recent scientific breakthroughs in pain research and described some exciting new targets and opportunities before providing suggestions on how scientists from all sectors of the pain research community might work more effectively together towards the common goal.

In subsequent drug discovery case history presentations, some of the hot targets in clinical and pre-clinical research settings were discussed. Theresa Williams highlighted work carried out by researchers at Merck on the discovery and development of the calcitonin gene-related peptide receptor antagonist, MK-0974. This orally bioavailable compound, also known as telcagepant, is in Phase III clinical trials for the acute treatment of migraines.

In a presentation from John Keith (Johnson & Johnson) structure-activity relationships and pharmacology on a series of inhibitors that target the enzyme fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) was communicated. FAAH plays a pivotal role in the fate of endogenous cannabinoid signalling molecules and blocking the action of this enzyme has been implicated in chronic pain. David Hsu described some of the progress that Evotec have made on the development of identifying antagonists of the purinergic receptors P2X2 and P2X2/3. Further presentations will be given by Adrian Hall (GSK), Deen Tulshian (Schering-Plough) and Dafydd Owen (Pfizer) which will cover other new advances in the discovery of molecules targeting inflammatory and neuropathic pain.

Stephen East, SCI-FCG and Evotec (UK) Ltd
Fine Chemicals Group

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