Vast Bioscience – solving the growing post-surgical pain conundrum with 3D Drug Discovery Technology

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31 October 2022

Pain is a debilitating condition and over the past few decades, escalating use of opioid therapeutics to manage pain has become a cause of concern in many countries, including Australia.

Over 300 million surgical operations are performed worldwide per annum, with approximately six per cent of these opioid treated patients becoming addicted. There is an urgent need to treat pain more effectively with non-addictive medications.

Brisbane-based biotech company Vast Bioscience Pty Ltd aims to offer the pharmaceutical industry a unique opportunity to develop innovative drugs with superior potency, target selectivity and safety. The company is developing a project to establish alternative pain-relief therapies and to solve the growing pain conundrum, supported by MTPConnect’s Biomedical Translation Bridge (BTB) program and BTB venture partner, BioCurate.

VAST technology - providing a turnkey chemistry solution

Using a proprietary technology platform called VAST (Versatile Assembly on Stable Templates), VAST Bioscience is developing three-dimensional (3D) small molecule sodium channel inhibitors. VAST technology provides a turnkey chemistry solution to access a diverse world of complex 3D drug-like molecules for the systematic discovery of 3D drugs, which deliver superior specificity, selectivity and potency when compared to two dimensional (2D) molecules, and hence a higher chance of safety in the clinic.

One possible target is hNav1.8 – one of the nine Voltage-gated sodium channel (VGSC) subtypes, which plays a critical role in the initiation and propagation of pain signals along nerve fibres. Using VAST technology, Vast Bioscience has developed a Nav1.8 inhibitor that fully reverses pain in an in vivo model of post-surgical pain following oral dosing, outperforming competitor lead molecules in efficacy and safety.

The project started with a lead molecule that exhibited exceptional efficacy and safety in an in vivo model of post-surgical pain at very low exposure. Through the BTB program, Vast Bioscience set out to optimise this lead molecule to an Investigational New Drug (IND) candidate – ultimately hoping to develop an effective non-opioid treatment for post-surgical pain through selective hNav1.8 inhibition with an excellent safety profile, and with a robust data package suitable for commercialisation.

To find out how this Vast Bioscience project has progressed, read more in our Case Study.