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Innovative dual modes of action

Around 20% of all Europeans suffer from chronic, long-lasting or recurring pain1 . Many patients cannot be adequately treated with existing medications2 – a situation that causes intolerable suffering to patients and their families.

Improving pharmacotherapy and the management of refractory pain is a complex problem that requires diverse types of expertise. As part of our mission to develop innovative new pain solutions, we set up a partnership between the Institute for Neurosciences and Medicine (INM), the Research Centre Jülich (FZJ), and Taros Chemicals, a business specialising in chemical design and synthesis. Together, we designed an ambitious project – Dual2PET (Development of Positron-Emission Tomography-ligands to demonstrate the duality of the mechanisms of action of new analgesics), that could pave the way to the development of analgesic drugs with innovative dual modes of action targeting the causes of refractory pain.

“The Dual2PET approach would represent an enormous improvement for pharmaceutical research and development accelerating the identification and development of dual mode of action analgesics and providing patients with improved therapies more quickly.”

Dr. Petra Bloms-Funke


Dual2PET Project Coordinator at Grünenthal, Translational Science & Intelligence, Head of Department for Grants and Partnerships

Improved therapies for chronic pain require highly innovative approaches that preferentially allow more than one pathological mechanism or mechanisms that cause diseases to be influenced simultaneously and beneficially. Drugs that have more than one mechanism of action interact with more than one pharmacological target (“multiple ligands”). Identifying such multiple ligands is extremely difficult, because we need to be able to prove that candidate multiple ligands actually modulate their multiple targets in animals and humans simultaneously. Previously their transfer from preclinical research to clinical practice has often been unsuccessful.

One possible way of proving the interaction of a new multiple ligand with its targets is to make use of smart new imaging techniques such as positron-emission tomography (PET). This technology is currently used in nuclear medicine to investigate and quantitate biological processes in a non-invasive and repeatable manner.

“Working with our partners, we will develop the Dual2PET method that will allow promising multiple ligands to be designed and tested as to whether their pharmacological properties can be proven, first in animals and then in humans (Translational Medicine)”, Dr. Achim Kless, Dual2PET Work Package Lead and Grünenthal Translational Scientist.

Our Dual2PET Consortium aims to develop a unique method that demonstrates the interaction of a single drug with two specific targets. Following the consortium’s proposal submission, LifeSciences.NRW has awarded a € 2 million grant from the European Fund for Regional Development and the State of North Rhine-Westphalia.

1 Langley P.C.: The prevalence, correlates and treatment of pain in the European Union. CMRO. 2011;463-480
2 In routine clinical care settings, as many as 50% of patients with chronic pain do not experience adequate relief, cf. Galvez, Journal of Pain & Palliative Care Pharmacotherapy, Vol. 23(4), 2009. Glajchen M. Chronic pain: treatment barriers and strategies for clinical practice. J Am Board Fam Pract. 2001;14:211

Leitmarktwettbewerb “LifeSciences.NRW”

In 2015, the State of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) set up the competitive granting body, LifeSciences.NRW to support the development of health and welfare solutions for an aging population. A consortium of academic institutions, SMEs and pharmaceutical companies in NRW have been offered the chance to compete for financial support from the European fund for regional development for innovative biomedical research and development projects. The intention is to strengthen growth and employment in NRW and increase its visibility as a global hub for life sciences. ... Leitmarktwettbewerb “LifeSciences.NRW”