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Eshelman Innovation Selects Novel Pain Therapeutics Grant Recipients

Neurotransmitters in synaptic junction are responsible for information transmission in the brain

Eshelman Innovation is proud to announce the recipients of our Novel Pain Therapeutics grant cycle. Eshelman Innovation partnered with the North Carolina Collaboratory to solicit projects from academic researchers across North Carolina for funding research and development that can advance the discovery and translation of therapeutics for opioid use disorders.

With this funding, provided through a generous appropriation by the NC General Assembly, we have funded three projects for our Opioid Abatement and Recovery Research Program. Congratulations to our grant recipients!

Kevin Frankowski, PhD
Assistant Professor, UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy

Sigma Receptor Modulation as an Opioid-Free Approach to Pain Therapy
Prescription opioid drugs remain the prevailing treatment for chronic pain, contributing to opioid dependence and the opioid-related health crisis, underscoring the urgent need for new approaches in pain management. This project will develop our novel sigma receptor ligand classes for pain management as an alternative to opioid drugs, which carry high risks of abuse and overdose potential.


Andrea Nackley, PhD
Associate Professor in Anesthesiology, Duke University

Peripherally-Targeted Adrb3 Antagonists for the Treatment of Pain
Chronic pain constitutes one of our nation’s largest healthcare problems, yet is ineffectively treated by conventional pharmacotherapies (eg, opioids) that adversely effect the central nervous system. Our objective is to develop a drug discovery platform for the novel peripheral target Adrb3 that includes 1) chemical synthesis of new potent, peripherally-selective Adrb3 antagonists and 2) preclinical testing of their analgesic efficacy and side-effects. If successful, this work will advance promising new analgesics into clinical trials.


Grégory Scherrer, PharmD, PhD
Associate Professor, UNC School of Medicine; UNC Neuroscience Center, Department of Pharmacology

Resolving the Neurobiological Mechanisms of Opioid-Induced Reward, Dependence, and Respiratory Depression to Identify Novel Therapeutics Against Opioid Addiction and Overdose Death
Opioids are effective analgesics, however, these drugs also produce harmful side effects that have generated an epidemic of opioid addiction and overdose deaths. This project aims to elucidate and inhibit the neurobiological mechanisms of opioid-induced reward and dependence, which cause addiction, and of opioid-induced respiratory depression, which is the main cause of overdose death. To this aim, this research will first utilize RNA sequencing technologies to identify opioid-sensitive neurons in the brain. The genes expressed by these neurons will then be characterized to discover drug targets for the development of innovative treatments that can prevent and treat opioid use disorders to battle the opioid epidemic.

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