Understanding pain pathways

Our research aims to understand the molecular mechanisms behind pain


Pain is a major medical and socio-economic issue affecting one in five Australians.

Our research aims to understand the molecular mechanisms behind pain. The current focus of the lab is to use toxins from plants and venomous animals to understand the molecular pharmacology of pain. These toxins are highly selective for ion channels and receptors found in the sensory neurons that detect pain and can potentially be developed into novel analgesics.

Native stinging tree toxins match the pain of spiders and scorpions

Group leader

A/Prof. Irina Vetter

Associate Professor Irina Vetter

Group Leader, Chemistry and Structural Biology

Director, Centre for Pain Research

  +61 7 334 62660
  UQ Researcher Profile

Aims to achieve

The research vision of the Vetter group is to bring innovation to the area of neuropharmacology of pain by combining expertise in venom peptide discovery and characterisation with our outstanding capacity in in vivo and in vitro pain pathway characterisation. This approach will provide insight into the pathophysiology of pain, a better understanding of the role of ion channels in pain, and identification of novel putative pain targets that will generate long term transformational and translation/commercialisation impact to benefit patients suffering from pain.

Using this approach, we have discovered a novel compound from spider venom that acts on pain-sensing nerves specifically. It has potential as an analgesic without side effects such as tolerance or addiction. The ultimate aim of their research is to develop targeted treatments without side effects to help the one in five Australian’s living with chronic pain.

Research areas

Our research also investigates the mechanisms contributing to chemotherapy-induced pain, cancer-associated pain, inflammatory and neuropathic pain, and the painful marine toxin disease known as ciguatera.

Our team

Group Leader



Research excellence

$1.3 billion+ commercial investment attracted to IMB research
1454 international collaborators
300+ original publications in 2022
$28M in research funding last calendar year
20%+ of patent families at UQ are derived from IMB research
100% of donations go to the cause

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