Case studies

Neuropathic pain drug development

Client: Spinifex Pharmaceuticals


Professor Andrew Rice, Department of Surgery and Cancer.
Professor Praveen Anand, the Centre for Clinical Translation, Division of Brain Sciences

Expertise: Pharmaceuticals, Neuropathic pain expertise


The Challenge

Spinifex needed support on the clinical development of EMA401 as a novel target for pain. More specifically, the challenge was to establish proof of efficacy data for EMA401 in animal models of antiretroviral-induced peripheral nervous system damage.


The Solution

Professor Rice and Professor Anand used their clinical expertise to guide the overall development of EMA401. They carried out tests on the effects of EMA401 on postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), a persistent nerve pain that can sometimes develop in patients following the shingles condition and provided proof of it’s efficacy. In addition, their involvement also led them to contribute to the design of a recently successful phase II clinical trial, with Professor Rice leading the protocol development.

The Impact

The EMA401 trial showed that the drug successfully reduces pain with minimal side effects in comparison to individuals who had taken a placebo over the same length of treatment. There is currently no existing painkiller that is effective in all PHN sufferers, hence this result is generating much interest.

Dr Tom McCarthy, CEO of Spinifex explains:

We have enjoyed highly productive collaborations with Profs. Rice and Anand. Their expertise in the neuropathic pain area and their leadership in the translation of fundamental pre-clinical research into innovative pain management has significantly accelerated our drug discovery and development programs.

Dr Tom McCarthy
CEO, Spinifex


Professor Rice adds:

Positive phase II studies are few and far between in neuropathic pain drug development, especially for completely novel targets, and these results are therefore the subject of some excitement. The contributions of Imperial academics to this success is a good example of the breadth of drug development capabilities and expertise available at the College.

Professor Andrew Rice
Department of Surgery and Cancer, Imperial College London


Professor Anand is continuing his foundational mechanism of action and translational research on EMA401. In addition, he is the Principal Investigator on an ongoing clinical trial of EMA401 in patients suffering from chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain.

Following on this success, 2015 saw the acquisition of both Spinifex and the AT2 programme by Novartis, which is a testament to the progress made within the development of new drugs for the treatment of chronic pain and to the success of the AT2 programme.

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