Discovery of analgesic drugs targeting the acid-sensing ion channel family

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Challenge: Chronic pain affects at least 20% of the population and its societal costs exceed those of cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes combined. Most chronic pain patients report many significant side effects from the current opiate-based treatments, including opioid addiction, and these treatments are not highly effective. New, non-opioid therapeutics are therefore needed.

Solution: Professor Séguéla, an international expert and pioneer in the identification of pain mechanisms at McGill’s Neurological Institute, previously identified the acid-sensing ion channel (ASIC) family as a potential non-opioid therapeutic target in the treatment of pain. ASICs act indeed as pain detectors in the nervous system and their activation is involved in the mechanisms of chronic pain. The project is an ongoing collaboration between Prof. Séguéla and Neurasic Therapeutics, a Montreal-based company specifically dedicated to the development of non-opioid analgesics targeting the ASIC family. Building on preliminary results obtained on ASIC1a, the project will start by screening virtual digital libraries of small molecules, to identify which of these molecules are predicted to bind to, and block, two other members of the ASIC family, ASIC1b and ASIC2a. The selected compounds will then be validated as blockers by in vitro assays in mammalian cells, and then tested in vivo in animal models of pathological pain.

Expected Achievements/Impact: This project is well positioned to provide key first steps towards the development of first-in-class analgesics to fight refractory pain without the side effects of opiates. Preclinical validation of at least one candidate compound will meet the project objectives of the funding partners, HBHL and the Louise and Alan Edwards Foundation. It will also position Neurasic, launched by two main venture actors in Quebec, adMare BioInnovations and AmorChem, to access a Series A round of funding for early-stage clinical trials. Tackling chronic pain holds a potential of considerable impact on human health .

Principal Investigator:
Philippe Séguéla
McGill University
Ongoing Project
$ 916,809 / 2 years
Supported by CQDM through:
– MEI
And by co-funding partners
– Neurasic Therapeutics
– Foundation Louise et Alan Edwards
– Healthy Brains Healthy Lives (HLBL)
– Mitacs
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