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Amgen, Boston Children's Hospital Collaborate to Find Pain Syndrome Genes

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Amgen and Boston Children's Hospital announced yesterday that they have entered into a one-year research collaboration aimed at identifying novel genes underlying anomalies of pain sensitivity, and validating the genetic findings as possible targets for therapeutics.

The partners will combine Amgen's expertise in genetic target identification and validation with access to Boston Children's Division of Pain Medicine to identify patients with abnormal pain conditions. The hospital's Division of Pain Medicine treats patients with rare conditions that make them strikingly insensitive or hypersensitive to pain, or apt to experience pain spontaneously with no apparent stimulus.

As part of the collaboration, the teams will study patients with genetic disorders that diminish pain sensitivity; erythromelalgia, a condition causing intense, burning pain in the extremities; paroxysmal extreme pain disorder, a condition characterized by skin flushing and severe pain attacks in various parts of the body; and hereditary sensory and autonomic neuropathy.

"Traditional approaches to analgesic drug discovery have been pretty disappointing during the past 20 years," Charles Berde, chief of the Division of Pain Medicine, said in a statement. "The most innovative biotech companies have realized that they need to pursue new directions for drug discovery. Patients with unusual patterns of increased or decreased pain responsiveness can offer important clues in this pursuit."

John Dunlop, vice president of neuroscience research at Amgen, added that the partnership emphasizes his company's investment in "pursuing targets that have clear genetic support," and noted that the collaboration will focus especially on finding treatments for pain that are non-addictive.