Majumdar Receives $2 Million in Grant Funds to Support Research on Safer Analgesics

Published on 09 November 2021

Susruta Majumdar, Ph.D., associate professor of medicinal chemistry and pharmacology at University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis, has been awarded $2 million in grants to further his work to target opioid and non-opioid receptors with the goal of creating safer analgesics for pain relief.

The funding includes a two-year grant from the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Helping to End Addiction Long-Term (HEAL) initiative, which was created to bolster research across NIH to improve treatments for opioid misuse and addiction, and enhance pain management. Majumdar will use the NIH HEAL funding to examine the effectiveness of repurposing cannabinoids to provide neuropathic pain relief without the side effects associated with classical cannabinoid and opioid receptor modulators.

“This project marks my first venture into cannabis-related research,” said Majumdar. “There has been data collected by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis indicating that peripherally restricted cannabinoid agonists may serve as another promising target for pain relief.”

Majumdar notes the data collection has been led by Robert W. Robert Gereau, Ph.D., vice-chair for research at Washington University School of Medicine, Dr. Seymour and Rose T. Brown Professor of Anesthesiology and director of the Washington University Pain Center. Majumdar’s research team is collaborating with Gereau’s team and Ron Dror, Ph.D., associate professor of computer science in the Stanford University Artificial Intelligence Lab.

“Together, we are looking more closely at cannabinoid receptors in the periphery to see how we can target them to achieve pain relief without unwanted side effects,” explained Majumdar.

Majumdar was also the recipient of a second HEAL grant targeting non-opioid receptors. Working alongside research collaborator Vsevolod "Seva" Katritch, Ph.D., associate professor in the Departments of Quantitative and Computational Biology and Chemistry at the University of Southern California (USC), Majumdar will work to develop peripherally acting Angiotensin Receptor subtype2 inhibitors for the treatment of peripheral neuropathy. Majumdar will conduct the research with collaborators at USC and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

In addition to non-opioid grants, the Majumdar lab will continue focusing on targeting opioid receptors through another HEAL grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Majumdar will collaborate with a team from biopharmaceutical company Sparian Biosciences, an organization which he co-founded. Together, researchers from the Majumdar lab and Sparian will conduct phase 1 human clinical trials on a molecule Majumdar previously synthesized in 2008. Through the trials, Majumdar and his collaborators will work towards developing a safer analgesic for pain relief.

“Each of these grants each offer unique opportunities to examine ways to repurpose cannabinoids as well as atypical opioids with the goal of eventually discovering new treatments for pain with the potential to help address the nation’s ongoing opioid crisis,” noted Majumdar. “As my lab continues its work on kratom-related projects and begins exploring the potential pain relief benefits of cannabinoids, we hope to identify receptors and additional targets that can provide pain relief without activating pathways that lead to addiction. We are grateful for this recent funding and excited to continue this important work that we hope will lead to more effective treatments for pain in the future.”

Majumdar’s research is conducted at the Center for Clinical Pharmacology. Established in 2015, the Center for Clinical Pharmacology is a partnership between University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis and the Department of Anesthesiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The center continues to diversify with faculty investigators currently engaged a variety of diverse research areas. Read more about the Center for Clinical Pharmacology.

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