Cone snail painkillers chosen as one of the best

9 Feb 2012

Cone snails are not an obvious place to look for medicine’s next significant breakthrough, but this is exactly where IMB’s Professor Richard Lewis and his research team have found a promising new treatment for chronic pain.

This research, which is currently at the clinical trial stage, makes use of cone snail toxins to create new pain treatments that lack the side effects associated with existing drugs.

The project was chosen as one of the best to be funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) out of the X funded in 2011, and will feature in its flagship publication, Ten of the Best Research Projects 2011, launched in Canberra today (9 February 2012).

NHMRC CEO Professor Warwick Anderson praised the featured research projects, which range from Dr Lewis’ research to a study which found that people with depression may benefit more from participating in work rather than calling in sick.

“These projects were picked for Ten of the Best on the basis of the strength of the science and significance of outcomes,” Professor Anderson said.

Professor Lewis has been studying cone snail toxins, known as conotoxins, since his PhD.

“Many types of pain, especially chronic pain associated with diseases like cancer and diabetes, remain poorly treated,” Professor Lewis says in the publication.

“New drugs are required that produce fewer dose-limiting side effects or target pain pathways more effectively.

“Cone snails produce venom peptides that act very selectively across a diverse range of neurological targets associated with pain pathways, presenting a unique opportunity to develop new pain therapies.”

Professor Lewis co-founded a company, Xenome, which has taken one of the pain treatments developed from his group’s research to clinical trials, where it will be tested on patients for whom morphine-based treatments have failed.

To view the Ten of the Best Research Projects 2011 please visit

Media contacts:

David Cooper (NHMRC) – 02 6217 9121

Bronwyn Adams (IMB) – 07 3346 2134 or 0418 575 247