Launch of the project: Modelling neuron-glia networks into a drug discovery platform for pain efficacious treatments (NGN-PET)

The new research project NGN-PET was launched in the framework of the Innovative Medicine Initiative (IMI), the largest public-private partnership (PPP) for health research worldwide co-funded by the EU and the European pharmaceutical industry. The NGN-PET consortium unites the expertise and knowledge of industry partners from the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and academia. Together they will investigate neuron-glia interactions aiming to develop authentic cellular (co-culture) assays to discover improved treatments of neuropathic pain using neuronal and glial cell types derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC), and their co-cultures.

The primary objective is to provide a translational platform for the identification, validation and testing of neuropathic pain targets in preclinical and human-relevant test systems suitable for drug discovery.

Chronic pain is a serious debilitating disease which greatly reduces the quality of life for the individual patients. In Europe, 20% of the population are affected which causes considerable socioeconomic burden of over 200 bn € per year1. Chronic pain of neuropathic origin has a population prevalence of 8.2%2.

Neuropathic pain arises after insults such as surgery, trauma, diabetes, chemotherapy or viral infections, and its prevalence is expected to rise in the future due to the ageing society.

Current treatments for chronic pain have limited efficacy, leaving about 60% of patients without adequate pain relief1. Moreover, these therapies address only symptoms not the causes of the pain, and are therefore not curative. In fact, the aetiologies of the disease are poorly understood which hinders the development of new analgesics with improved efficacies.

One of the major findings of the last decade in pain research is that non-neuronal cells play a very active role in the development of sensory abnormalities. In particular, glia – like Schwann cells, microglia, or astrocytes – contribute directly to modulation of neuronal functions.


NGN-PET consortium: understand biology and develop test systems for neuropathic pain

The NGN-PET consortium aims to explore neuron-glial interactions in subtypes of neuropathic pain which are induced by chemotherapy or trauma, and to develop human-predictive test systems that can be implemented in the drug discovery process. These cellular systems will use preclinical tissues and human iPSC-derived neuron-glia co-cultures in novel high-throughput screening platforms. We hope this new science helps in identifying novel more efficacious treatments for neuropathic pain patients.

To achieve these ambitious goals, a consortium of 6 partners, with the support of IMI, has been formed. NGN-PET brings together experts from industry, SMEs and academia in a synergistic public-private partnership. NGN-PET is supported by over 3million euros from IMI2 and industry partners in direct and in-kind contributions. The project duration is 3 years. The consortium will disseminate the results through publication in high-impact scientific journals, applying open access policy whenever possible, or in scientific meetings by means of poster or oral presentations. Online outreach of the project publications will be performed via the project website.

The NGN-PET project is coordinated by Axxam; the project leader is ESTEVE, supported by Grünenthal as project Co-Leader.

NGN-PET Project Launch