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J&J, University to Partner on Spider Venom Therapy for Pain

Spider on web (A. Kotok)

(A. Kotok)

Researchers at University of Queensland in Australia are collaborating with the U.S. pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson to develop components of spider venom as a potential treatment for pain. Johnson & Johnson’s Corporate Office of Science and Technology (COSAT) and other company units will provide funding to the university’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience for the initiative. Financial details were not disclosed.

The grant will support a 12-month project to further identify and analyze spider venom peptides discovered in earlier research at the institute to inhibit a human ion channel — a key neural electronic pathway — considered important for sensing pain. The project team includes Queensland faculty members Glenn King, Richard Lewis, Paul Alewood and their research colleagues.

Chronic pain is estimated to afflict some 116 million Americans and 1.5 billion people worldwide, according to American Academy of Pain Medicine. The total annual incremental cost of health care due to pain ranges from $560 billion to $635 billion (in 2010 dollars) in the United States, says the academy, which includes the medical costs of pain care, the economic costs related to disability days, and lost wages and productivity.

Uniquest, the university’s technology transfer company, arranged the collaboration agreement. UniQuest’s managing director David Henderson says the partnership will help move along the process of getting any pain therapies from spider venom to the market. “Discoveries like this pass through many developmental stages before they become market-ready therapeutic products,” says Henderson, “so combining the resources and expertise of Australian researchers and COSAT means potential pain drug candidates for clinical trials are likely to be identified much sooner.”

Read more: FDA Designates Orphan Drug Made From Tarantula Venom

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