A Bright Future for Pain Drug Development: A Conversation With William Schmidt

WilliamSchmidtWilliam (Bill) Schmidt is president of NorthStar Consulting in Davis, California, which provides advice to companies working to develop new treatments for acute and chronic pain. He is also a part-time vice president of clinical and regulatory for Ensysce Bioscience in San Diego, California, for Centrexion Corporation in Baltimore, Maryland, and for EicOsis, also in Davis, California; these are all companies involved in pain drug development. Bill has also been deeply involved in pain drug development and clinical research throughout his career, having previously worked at a number of biotech and pharma companies, and he’s an internationally recognized expert on pain research and treatment. In this RELIEF podcast, Bill discusses the past history, present status, and future prospects of pain drug development. For a written transcript of the podcast, please click here. For a glossary of terms used in the podcast, please see below. (Note: For slower connections, the video may take longer to load. If you experience difficulty, the video is also available through YouTube here).


Agonist: A chemical that binds to and activates a molecule, called a receptor, to produce a biological response. An antagonist also binds to a receptor, but in this cases inhibits the receptor.

Analgesic drug targets: The biological processes that drugs can affect to relieve pain.

Anti-CGRP antibodies: A class of drugs being tested in people to treat migraine. The drugs inhibit a molecule, called calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), that is involved in migraine.

COX-2: A protein, known as an enzyme, that is responsible for inflammation and pain. Some NSAIDs can relieve pain by selectively inhibiting this enzyme.

Enzymes: Proteins that accelerate chemical reactions in the body.

Mu opioid receptor: A protein to which opioids such as morphine bind. Kappa opioid receptors are another type of opioid receptor.

Nerve growth factor (NGF): A molecule that stimulates nerve growth. Antibodies that inhibit NGF are under clinical investigation to treat pain.

Neuropathic pain: Pain resulting from nerve injury. Painful diabetic neuropathy is one type of neuropathic pain.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): A class of pain-relieving drugs that includes aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen.

Peripheral nervous system: The part of the nervous system outside of the brain and spinal cord.

Prodrugs: Drugs that are inactive by themselves, but become active drugs when metabolized by the body.

Receptors: Molecules to which drugs can bind.

Signal transduction pathways: The chemical signaling that takes place after a drug binds to its receptor. G proteins and beta-arrestins are molecules involved in signal transduction pathways that come into play after opioids bind to their receptor.

Sodium channels: Proteins that control neuronal excitability–the ability of nerve cells to fire and to communicate with each other. Calcium channels are another class of proteins that also affect neuronal excitability.

Systemic drug administration: Administration of a drug into the circulatory system so that the entire body is affected.