There are at least 50 accidental overdoses from prescription opioids every day in the United States. That's more than the number of people who overdose from heroin.
Five years ago, scientists at Seattle-based biotech company Kineta recognized the growing problem of opioid overdose and abuse and began working to create something completely different. Their goal is to focus on the use of opioids for chronic pain.
"Injury can turn into chronic pain is that the acute injury can lead to inflammation of the nerve, Inflammation of the nerve can lead to degeneration. And so even though the primary injury can be corrected by surgery or just through generally healing those people can develop a chronic pain syndrome," said Shawn Iadonato, CEO at Kineta.
Kineta is a privately held biotech company focused on developing immunotherapies. Iadonato says their non-opioid pain drug is called KCP 400. The drug is derived from a protein that is found in the cone snail venom.
But patients won't be taking venom. Kineta has developed a fully synthetic version. It works much differently than opioids which act on the brain and spinal cord, masking the pain. KCP 400 is designed to only work at the site of the injury by blocking pain signals at the source.
"So, pain is a signal that comes from the site of injury. It travels up through a long nerve through the spine and from the spinal cord up into the brain and this pain signaling can be blocked in the brain. It can be blocked in the spinal cord or it can be blocked at the site of injury. This drug is really designed to block pain at the site of injury, wherever you have it injury the drug should be acting at that location. In addition, it has an anti-inflammatory effect," Iadonato said.
At this point their plan is to use an injectable form of the drug weekly. Some patients are being trained to give themselves the shot much like insulin. There have been no side-effects seen so far in their testing but it is still in the early stages with human clinical trials being organized now.
They expect those trials to begin next year so it will likely be a few years before we see this KCP 400 on the market.