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£2.2m funding to find non-addictive painkiller

2 October 2023

Four scientists at work in a laboratory

Cardiff researchers have been awarded £2.2m in a quest to find non-addictive, non-opioid treatments for chronic pain.

Affecting around 20% of the world’s population, chronic pain can have a profound impact on an individual’s quality of life.

The backing from the Medical Research Council (MRC) will allow the Medicines Discovery Institute (MDI) to explore a new data-driven approach to blocking pain signals.

The funding, granted in June, chimes with a global hunt for safer, less addictive painkillers. A US healthcare scandal continues to unfold around the marketing of the highly addictive opioid OxyContin.

Part funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government’s Sêr Cymru scheme, the MDI’s team of 40 researchers and support staff translate biomedical research into new medicines for unmet clinical needs.

The award, through the MRC’s Development Pathway Funding Scheme, will fund a project entitled “Allosteric modulators of spinal cord glycine receptors for the treatment of chronic pain.”

Professor John Atack, Sêr Cymru Professor in translational drug discovery at Cardiff University, said: “Our work builds on our team’s ability to regulate ion channels with highly specific drug molecules. When these key controllers of nerve signalling are dysregulated, it is important to understand how to step in and return them to their healthy state.

“The MDI has many years of experience of doing this successfully and Medical Research Council award is recognition of the MDI team’s world-leading capabilities. We look forward to eventually developing treatments that will make day-to-day life easier for many people who have no option but to live with debilitating pain.”

Chronic pain can be life changing. It affects about one in five individuals worldwide. Multiple causes include back pain, osteoarthritis, cancer and diabetic neuropathy.

Allosteric modulator-based treatments would be non-addictive without the significant side effects of other chronic-use pain killers.

The MDI team hopes to begin testing its new therapies in human patients within five years.

For further information about the work of MDI, visit:

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