(EDWARDSVILLE, Ill.) The Southern Illinois University Edwardsville School of Pharmacy has been awarded—along with the Saint Louis University Department of Pharmacology and Physiology—a $974,024 National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to study ways of relieving chronic pain through new approaches in treating neuroinflammation. Funding for the NIH grant was made possible in part by federal stimulus funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
William Neumann, an assistant professor of medicinal chemistry in the SIUE School of Pharmacy, and Professor Daniela Salvemini, an associate professor of pharmacological and physiological science at the SLU School of Medicine, are the project’s principal researchers who will be studying how “peroxynitrite” (produced in the body in inflammatory settings) can actually cause chronic pain when the body produces too much of the chemical. Studies have shown chronic pain is a global problem but in the United States alone one third of Americans suffer from it. However, about 30 percent of those chronic pain sufferers report that drugs now available on the market do not help the problem.
“When you have inflammation in the body,” Neumann explained, “reactive oxygen species and free radicals are produced, which can lead to formation of the neurotoxic molecule, peroxynitrite. Normally, these reactive molecules are kept under tight wraps by the body’s own antioxidant defense systems. “But, if these systems become compromised, as in a state of chronic pain, it actually can make the problem worse. We’ll be looking at creating a synthetic enzyme that will go in and destroy the peroxynitrite.”
Over the past decade, Salvemini’s pioneering research led to the discovery of peroxynitrite. “We discovered the substance ... which turns out to be very important in the development of pain and inflammation. If we target that molecule, we hope we can find new therapies with fewer side effects,” said Salvemini. “Currently, pain is often poorly managed. Our hope is to find better ways to eliminate human suffering.” The two-year grant is being administered through the NIH’s National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal And Skin Diseases.
“By using various accepted lab methods, we will try to create in rats arthritic conditions and see how they react to the pharmacology we introduce,” Neumann said. “The broad potential therapeutic use of these new analgesic agents we’re proposing is not a part of current pain management drugs,” he said. “Our team will draw upon previous breakthroughs in the development of free radical targeted therapies but we will go further in creating a new approach to combat the problem without some of the current side effects of current pain management drugs.”
William Neumann received a bachelor of science in Chemistry from the University of Missouri at Columbia in 1983 and a doctorate in 1987 from UM-St. Louis, where he worked on synthetic methodologies directed at preparing antitumor cyclopentanoid natural products. Since then, he has conducted research in both the diagnostic imaging and therapeutic pharmaceutical industries. Prior to joining the SIUE School of Pharmacy he spent the majority of his industrial career at Monsanto corporate research and later Pharmacia, leading the new synthetic methods group. He also is currently adjunct professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, Saint Louis University. Professor Neumann’s research interests are structure based drug discovery and catalytic antioxidants. At SIUE, he teaches biochemistry and integrated pharmacotherapeutics: GI/rheumatology/pulmonary-medicinal chemistry.
Daniela Salvemini received her BSc in pharmacology in 1987 from King’s College London and her doctorate in pharmacology in 1990 at the William Harvey Research Institute, University College in London. After four years of post-doctoral fellowship, Salvemini joined the private sector where she spent more than a decade working on drug discovery and development of novel anti-inflammatories and analgesics. She came to Saint Louis University in 2005. Salvemini’s research achievements are reflected in numerous peer-reviewed publications, reviews and lectures in the field of pain and inflammation, and several international awards including the prestigious Novartis Award in pharmacology.