Associate Professor Greg Neely has received an $810,000 grant from the NSW government, as one of only four winners of the Cell and Gene Therapy grants from NSW Health.
His project ‘Developing a stem cell-based therapy for chronic pain’ aims to find a new way to eliminate or reduce chronic pain. In Australia chronic pain is estimated to cost over $30 billion per year to the overall economy, and current therapies do not adequately address pain for most patients.
Associate Professor Greg Neely is Head of the Dr John and Anne Chong Lab for Functional Genomics in the Charles Perkins Centre, and School of Life and Environmental Sciences, in the Faculty of Science.
“In our lab, we have been working on a new stem cell therapy to treat chronic neuropathic pain. Our therapy provides long lasting relief from neuropathic pain in mouse models, and this funding will allow us to rapidly develop this technology for use in humans for the first time,” said Associate Professor Neely.
“This grant will support us to generate clinical grade stem cell transplants, and fund extensive safety testing in mice and large mammals – work that is essential before this technology can be trialled in humans.”
The project will generate GMP-grade (good manufacturing practices), clinic-ready transplant material, and then test the safety and efficacy of this material in rodents and large mammals.
By moving these new technologies to the pain clinic, we can start to provide some relief to the millions of people currently living with untreatable and devastating chronic pain.
“In neuropathic pain, there is a loss of inhibitory signals in the spinal cord. In our system, we take induced pluripotent stem cells – cells that can mature into a number of different cell types – which are made from patient skin biopsies, and we differentiate them into inhibitory neurons that suppress pain. These neurons are then transplanted back into the spinal cord where they can promote long lasting pain relief,” he explained.
Dr Antonio Penna, Executive Director of the Office of Health and Medical Research, said the funding will support NSW researchers to remain at the forefront of these rapidly-moving fields. “The funding will provide real benefits to patients and improve the quality of health care across NSW,” said Dr Penna.
Find out more about the NSW Health Cell and Gene Therapy grants.