UCL Division of Medicine


Molecular Nociception Group’s first drug released

9 March 2022

Molecular Nociception Group’s first drug released

John Wood

At UCL, twenty-five years ago Armen Akopian, Chih-Cheng Chen and John Wood cloned a sensory neuron  ATP receptor (P2X3) and showed it had a role to play in pain pathways using knock-out mice (1). This fitted well with the research of Geoff Burnstock, then Head of Department of Anatomy, on purines as signalling molecules (2).  P2X3 antagonists were developed for the clinic and pleasingly, a first in class drug was named after Geoff – Gefapixant, by Merck.  Now this drug has been released in Japan as Lyfnua, where it is used to treat chronic cough. Other potential indications in neuropathic pain are being explored. This is a good example of translation from basic science (3).  Further analgesic drugs focused on Nav1.8, a key sodium channel in human pain cloned by the same team, are expected in 2023.

  1. Chen CC, Akopian AN, Sivilotti L, Colquhoun D, Burnstock G, Wood JN. A P2X purinoceptor expressed by a subset of sensory neurons.  Nature. 1995 Oct 5;377(6548):428-31. doi: 10.1038/377428a0. PMID: 7566119
  2. Wood JN. Pain, Purines and Geoff.  Auton Neurosci. 2022 Jan;237:102902.
  3. Lyfnua: First Drug for Refractory or Unexplained Chronic Cough