It doesn’t seem like much of a stretch to suppose that if a powerful, non-addictive painkilling drug hits the market, many of the 1.5 billion people worldwide who suffer from chronic pain are likely to buy it.
That’s part of the rationale for a project announced this week by Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) and the University of Queensland, which will collaborate for 12 months on the development of drugs that use pain-blocking peptides found in spider venom.
In purely economic terms, the collaborators point out, the project makes perfect sense, since chronic pain—often generated by nervous-system malfunctions that have no physical injury as their source—is responsible for about $560 billion in annual healthcare costs and lost productivity.
A Bloomberg/Businessweek story on the partnership points out that University of Queensland, based in Brisbane, Australia, and its principal research commercialization company have a product line that generates about $3.2 billion in annual sales. The spider-venom project team, of course, features a number of highly regarded experts, including molecular biology pioneer Paul Alewood and Glenn King, a longtime specialist in spider toxins.