When: Tuesday, October 26th 7-9 PM
What: Killing Pain with Killer Snails
Who: George Miljanich, CEO Airmid Pharamaceuticals
Where: Atlas Cafe, 3049 20th St @ Alabama St. in the Mission District
Tens of millions of Americans suffer from chronic pain — pain that lasts longer than six months. Chronic pain can be mild or excruciating, episodic or continuous, merely inconvenient or totally incapacitating. With chronic pain, signals of pain remain active in the nervous system for weeks, months, or even years.
For centuries, morphine has been used to relieve debilitating severe chronic pain. But as many patients know, even this powerful opioid narcotic – and its more recent relatives, codeine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone – can’t fully control their pain. Now there is a new treatment option – a medicine derived from the venom of a deadly marine snail known as Conus magus, or the “magician’s cone.”
This ocean-dwelling predator uses its venom – a complex cocktail of toxins – to subdue its fish prey. As Dr. George Miljanich and his collaborators discovered, one of the toxins also interferes with the ability of pain-sensing nerves in humans to send signals to the brain. This discovery led to the development of ziconotide (aka Prialt®), a promising new analgesic recently approved for use in the U.S. and Europe.
A synthetic copy of a peptide originally isolated from the cone snail’s venom, ziconotide does not suffer from many of the limitations of the narcotic analgesics – such as tolerance, withdrawal, and addiction and abuse. In his talk, Dr. Miljanich will discuss the development of ziconotide, the physiological mechanisms of severe chronic pain, and the potential for developing human therapeutics derived from the toxins of other venomous organisms.
About George Miljanich
Dr. Miljanich is a Bay Area native, having received his scientific training at UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, and UC San Francisco. While on the faculty at USC, he recognized the potential analgesic properties of ziconotide and went on to contribute to the development of the drug at Elan Pharmaceuticals. Currently, he is CEO of Airmid Inc., which is developing a medicine derived from a Caribbean sea anemone toxin to treat autoimmune diseases. With Stanford University researchers, he recently founded SiteOne Therapeutics to develop pain medications based on a toxin made by marine bacteria. He also serves as vice president of the Toxinomics Foundation, an international non-profit organization devoted to developing toxin-based medicines.