Bio21 'Big Picture': Addressing Chronic Pain: A Major Health Problem in Australia and Globally - 3pm, 4 November

Monday, 4 November, 2019 - 15:00 to 16:00

What: Bio21 Big Picture Seminar: Addressing Chronic Pain: A Major Health Problem in Australia and Globally

Who: Em. Professor Maree Smith, PhD AC FTSE FAHMS​, Director, CIPDD, School of Biomedical Sciences, The University of Queensland

When: Monday, 4 November, 3 - 4pm, followed by refreshments in the atrium, 4 - 5pm

Where: Bio21 Auditorium and atrium, 30 Flemington Road, Parkville, 3052

Please Register: Follow the link for an Eventbrite registration



Neuropathic pain is a large unmet medical need.  Despite identification of numerous targets for use in analgesic drug discovery programs, there has been limited success in producing safe and highly effective novel agents for the relief of neuropathic pain. This is because promising data in rodent models of neuropathic pain have not translated into significant pain relief in early phase human clinical trials. An exception is the angiotensin II type 2 (AT2) receptor. Specifically, small molecule AT2 receptor antagonists with >1000-fold selectivity over the angiotensin II type 1 (AT1) receptor evoked dose-dependent pain-relief in rodent models of peripheral neuropathic pain. In neuropathic mice null for the AT2 receptor, pain relief was abolished with intermediate effects in the heterozygotes. These data affirmed the AT2 receptor as the target mediating pain relief. EMA401 was selected as the drug candidate for progression into early phase human clinical trials. This was on the basis of its satisfactory oral bioavailability in rats at 30%, its favourable pharmacokinetics, its inability to cross the blood-brain-barrier and its good safety profile in an Investigational New Drug (IND)-enabling GLP toxicology program.  Importantly, the pain relief evoked by selective small molecule AT2 receptor antagonists in rodent models of peripheral neuropathic pain, translated into a successful randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled Phase 2a clinical trial in patients with post-herpetic neuralgia, a type of peripheral neuropathic pain that is often intractable.


Maree Smith is Emeritus Professor and Director of the Centre for Integrated Preclinical Drug Development (CIPDD) in the School of Biomedical Sciences at The University of Queensland. Internationally, Professor Smith is a leading researcher in biomedical discovery/translation with particular expertise in the novel pain therapeutics field. She is inventor on a patented novel analgesic technology that was licensed to the UQ spin-out company, Spinifex Pharmaceuticals, for commercialization and acquired by Novartis in 2015. In the period, 2005-2017, she guided the establishment, growth and industry engagement of the CIPDD and its commercial interface, TetraQ, through skilful leadership of a high-performing team that collectively completed more than 700 contract-funded R&D studies in collaboration with >200 industry and academic clients in the biotech sector. Although her focus is on IP-sensitive research, she has maintained an excellent publication output, with 167 publications to date. She has also advised/co-advised 30 PhD students and 50 Research Masters/Honours students to completion, as well as mentored numerous researchers over the past several decades.