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King’s College London and Grünenthal join forces to ease pain

Duo will collaborate to develop pluripotent stem cell-based microfluidic cultures for pain research.

King’s College London and Grünenthal are embarking on a 24-month collaboration to develop microfluidic culture (MFC) models based on human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).

The partnership will focus on pain research and aims to build on King’s College’s Dr Ramin Raouf, and his extensive MFC studies, by establishing models using iPSC-derived neurons that closely imitate the processes of human nociceptive neurones.

Grünenthal will, in turn, provide support to Dr Raouf’s lab with its competencies in characterising human iPSCs and funding of more than £350,000.

Ultimately, the link-up aims to take on a significant requirement for better transational models in pain research. Historically, traditional rodent behavioural models have failed to translate into the clinical setting due to fundamental differences in molecular and genetic mechanisms of pain across a variety of species.

Jan Adams, chief scientific officer at Grünenthal, was confident that the partnership could be a positive one: “We are delighted to join forces with Dr Ramin Raouf, a leading expert in microfluidic culture models. Taking this method to the next level may significantly enhance our understanding of how investigational medicines modulate pain.”

He added: “As a leading company in pain research, our ambition is to play a crucial role in developing such pioneering methodologies. We aim to anchor these competencies in our organisation and to include such models in our pre-clinical repertoire.”

Dr Ramin Raouf, lecturer in molecular neuroscience at King’s College London, concluded: “Compared to traditional cell culture techniques, microfluidic cultures replicate more accurately the anatomy and physiology of the nervous system. Therefore, they can provide significant advantages in pre-clinical pain research.”

He concluded: “I believe adapting them with human iPSCs will create a transformative platform for generating translatable insights into the mechanisms of pain which will eventually contribute to reducing the attrition rate in clinical development.”

Chronic pain is a considerable burden that affects up to one in five people globally and is the most common reason for seeking medical help.