The Cátedra Extraordinaria del Dolor honors Francisco Ciruela for the design of the first photoactive drug with analgesic action


Professor Francisco Ciruela, from the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences of the University of Barcelona, the Institute of Neurosciences of the UB and the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL), has been awarded the Preclinical Research Award from Cátedra Extraordinaria del Dolor of the University of Salamanca – Grünenthal Foundation. This prize awards a research with animal models, published in the journal eLife, that reached its highest point with the design of the first photoactive drug –JF-NP-26, activated by light─, with potential therapeutic applications to treat pain.


The awarded study –co-led by the experts Francisco Ciruela and Amadeu Llebaria, from the Medicinal Chemistry and Synthesis group (MCS) from the Institute of Advanced Chemistry of Catalonia (IQAC-CSIC)─ is a distinguished progress in the field of optopharmacology, an emerging discipline based on the use of light to control drug activity.
“In the clinical field, there is not any precedent of the uses of optopharmacology to improve pain treatments or any nervous system-related pathology. In the preclinical area, that is, with animal models, this is the first photoactive drug designed for in vivo pain treatment”, says Francisco Ciruela.

The photoactive drug JF-NP-26 is called a photocaged –a chemically masked and inactive molecule, which is activated by light-, and does not show toxic or unwanted effects on animals, not even with high doses in short-length studies. When given to an animal, it does not have any pharmacologic effect until the target tissue is covered by the light of the visible spectrum (405 nm wavelength).

In the category of Clinical Research, a study led by Professor Enrique Lluch, from the University of Valencia, as also awarded. The study creates pain frequency maps in patients with knee osteoarthritis. 

The awards of this chair distinguish the most innovative projects on pain –ranging from epidemiology, experimental, pharmacological and clinical fields-, and were given in an academic ceremony held in the University of Salamanca on January 27.

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