HEAL Headliners: Innovative Long-Acting Therapeutics for Pain and Opioid Use Disorder

Fri, 6/2/2023 - 2:00pm - 3:00pm


User-friendly, long-acting treatment options are needed for both opioid use disorder and pain. This HEAL webinar explored research on the development of two long-acting therapeutics: gene therapy for pain and a novel opioid receptor blocker for treating opioid use disorder.

Topics Covered

Optimization of a Gene Therapy for Chronic Pain in Human DRGs

Alternative approaches to treating pain include disrupting the transmission of pain signals by specialized cells in the spinal cord (dorsal root ganglion neurons, or DRGs). Within these neurons, molecules called voltage-gated sodium channels (NaV1.7 channels) are essential for transmission of the pain signals. Because people who have a genetic variant of NaV1.7 channels are insensitive to pain, blocking the channel is an attractive, non-addictive target. Dr. Ana Moreno of Navega Therapeutics will discuss development of an innovative gene therapy that targets NaV1.7 and prevents and reverses pain in multiple animal models, and will be tested next in human DRGs.

A Novel Opioid Receptor Antagonist for Treating Opioid Use Disorder and Overdose 

The opioid crisis worsened significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, fueled in part by increasing availability of fentanyl and related synthetic opioids that are easy to make, inexpensive, potent, often marketed as other drugs, and reportedly more difficult to block than opioids like heroin. Dr. Charles France of the Long School of Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio will present his work on the development of methocinnamox (MCAM), a novel opioid receptor blocker that has an unusually long duration of action. The novel properties of MCAM might prove useful for treating opioid use disorder (e.g., preventing relapse and overdose) as well as for treating opioid overdose.


Ana Moreno, Ph.D., Navega Therapeutics

Ana Moreno received a bachelor’s degree in Biosystems Engineering from the University of Arizona with a focus on biosensors; and master’s and doctorate degrees in Bioengineering from the University of California San Diego with a research focus on gene editing via CRISPR-Cas9 platforms. Moreno has studied gene editing approaches for treating chronic pain in various pain models. In 2018, Moreno founded Navega Therapeutics, a startup developing gene therapies for chronic pain.

Charles P. France, Ph.D., Long School of Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

Charles P. France is the Robert A. Welch Distinguished University Chair in Chemistry, Professor of Pharmacology, and Professor of Psychiatry at the Long School of Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. His research focuses on interactions between behavior and pharmacology and how those interactions impact the misuse liability and toxicity of drugs.


Iván Montoya, M.D., M.P.H., National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Division of Therapeutics and Medical Consequences (DTMC)

Iván Montoya, a psychiatrist and epidemiologist who specializes in the development of therapeutics for substance use disorder (SUD), is acting director of the NIDA Division of Therapeutics and Medical Consequences. In this role, he manages activities and resources of the division involved in the research of new pharmacologic treatments for SUD.

For More Information, Contact:

Carol Gianessi, Ph.D., at [email protected]


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