Centre for Pain Research

One in five Australians suffers from chronic pain. It is one of the most under-recognised and undertreated medical problems and is now becoming recognized as a disease. It is a problem that costs the Australian economy $34billion a year and costs sufferers significantly in quality of life. Current treatments for pain either don’t work, or have terrible side effects, like drug addiction. This centre seeks to change that.

Scientists at the Centre for Pain Research are searching for new treatment options for pain. The diversity of researchers applying their skills to pain, covering the breadth of research from discovery to the clinic, combined with cutting edge facilities that drive output, is hard to match internationally. The Centre for Pain Research is the only research centre to have successfully discovered a peptide and translated it to the clinic.  

We approach pain research in three ways

  1. We search for new painkillers in the natural world – screening chemical diversity for new opportunities. We identify weaknesses and modify the molecule to optimise its potential as a pain drug.  
  2. We uncover pain targets, illustrating how molecules behave within the pain pathways in our bodies. This knowledge improves the effectiveness of drugs and reduces unwanted side effects.
  3. We map the pain pathways within the body to determine how we feel pain and uncover new pain pathways for targeting.

General enquiries

  pain@imb.uq.edu.au


Research enquiries

Professor Richard Lewis, Director, IMB Centre for Pain Research
  r.lewis@imb.uq.edu.au
  +61 7 3346 2984

Dr Irina Vetter, Deputy Director, Centre for Pain Research
  i.vetter@imb.uq.edu.au
  +61 7 3346 2660

One in five people worldwide suffer from chronic pain. But what is it, and how can the venom from creatures such as spiders and cone snails help us treat this debilitating condition?
Pain is an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience. One in five people suffers from chronic pain, which lasts beyond the normal time it takes the body to heal and has many causes.
Researchers are figuring out how to manipulate venom extracted from some of the deadliest species in the world, to combat the various forms of pain we experience.
Burns are one of the most common injuries, affecting as many as 200,000 Australians each year. This is what to do if a burn occurs.
IMB's Deputy Director of the Centre for Pain Research is an ambassador for UQ's SAGE Pilot of Athena SWAN program.
IMB scientists have discovered a promising new approach to treat pain from tarantula venom.
Toxins from snakes, spiders, jellyfish and scorpions are helping scientists to better understand how pain works, with the hope of managing chronic pain more effectively.
IMB researchers are identifying pathways that contribute to pain, to help the one in five Australians who live with chronic pain.
The venom from some of the world's deadliest creatures is being used to develop potentially life-saving medications at UQ.
Spiders have helped researchers from Australia and the US discover a new target for irritable bowel syndrome pain.
IMB spin-out biotech company Protagonist Therapeutics Inc is a step closer to developing a new drug that would benefit millions of people worldwide.
Catch up on the free community seminar, Pain: Making it personal, hosted by the IMB Centre for Pain Research.
Bites or stings from venomous animals or insects can be dangerous; they lead to numerous fatalities globally each year despite the development of antivenoms that can neutralise many of their worst effects.

        

 

        

 

       

 

       

Director

  • Professor Richard Lewis

    Director, IMB Centre for Pain Research
    Professorial Research Fellow
    Institute for Molecular Bioscience

Deputy Director

Chief Investigators

  • Professor Paul Alewood

    Group Leader, Chemistry and Structural Biology Division
    Professorial Research Fellow
    Institute for Molecular Bioscience
  • Professor Rob Capon

    Group Leader, Chemistry and Structural Biology Division
    Professorial Research Fellow
    Institute for Molecular Bioscience
  • Professor David Fairlie

    Division Head & Group Leader, Chemistry and Structural Biology Division
    NHMRC Snr Principal Research Fellow
    Institute for Molecular Bioscience
  • Professor Glenn King

    Professorial Research Fellow
    Institute for Molecular Bioscience
  • Associate Professor Mark Smythe

    Group Leader, Chemistry and Structural Biology Division
    Principal Research Fellow
    Institute for Molecular Bioscience
  • Professor David Craik

    Group Leader, Chemistry and Structural Biology Division
    ARC Laureate Fellow
    Institute for Molecular Bioscience

Discovering new painkillers

Familiar painkillers, or analgesics, such as paracetamol and aspirin, are not always effective in managing peoples pain, while stronger painkillers, such as morphine, can be highly addictive and can produce unwanted side effects.

The IMB Centre for Pain Research (CPR) is looking at animal venoms—such as those found in centipedes, spiders and cone snails—to develop new and more effective painkilling drugs. CPR uses a broad and comprehensive panel of assays for pain targets, addressing aspects of pain initiation and transmission using state-of-the-art screening technologies.

Pinpointing pain targets

Researchers are investigating how pain targets behave within pain pathways, right down to the molecular level, so they can work to improve the effectiveness of painkilling drugs, as well as prevent addiction and the unpleasant side effects associated with current drugs.

Using advanced NMR and X-ray crystallographic approaches, scientists can obtain accurate three-dimensional structure of molecules and precisely position the residues contributing to affinity. This knowledge will be used to improve target specificity, and, in parallel, will engineer out off-target liabilities to improve the therapeutic window of drug leads.

Mapping pain pathways

How the body feels pain is still not well understood. At the CPR, our research maps the complex pain pathways within our body. This will help us to better understand what can cause chronic pain. It will also help us to uncover new pain pathways in the body that could be targeted by painkillers.

Testing potential new treatments

CPR assesses the effectiveness of newly discovered compounds in the pain pathway of experimental models. Information gathered through this approach helps identify preferred compounds/candidate molecules, suitable patient populations, dosing routes, as well as strategies to minimise side effects in people living with pain.

Drug development

Molecules or drug targets that prove to be effective in managing pain in the lab will be chemically modified to be suitable for manufacturing. Researchers work to maximise storage and enzyme stability, ease of synthesis, and plasma half-life in vivo, without compromising therapeutic index, efficacy or safety.