First Algae-based Pain Medication

N​ew Zealand’s Cawthron Institute has announced that they have developed a reliable and commercially scalable method for producing neosaxitoxin, a key ingredient of an algae-based pain medication. The potent toxin comes from the paralytic shellfish toxin family, found in the marine microalgae Alexandrium pacificum. Neosaxitoxin can be combined with existing local anesthetics for use as an improved long-term pain relief for patients following many types of surgeries and for treating severe local pain.

“It offers an alternative to opioids for the management of post-operative pain. Because it’s long-lasting, isn’t addictive and doesn’t depress the central nervous system it could transform surgical recovery,” said New Zealand’s Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor. “This is an excellent outcome from the Government’s Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFF Futures) fund. We partnered with Cawthron in 2020 on the project, each investing $950,000.”

The local anesthetics currently on the market are of two chemical classes, amino-amides and amino-esters, and they have changed very little over the past 50 years. Neosaxitoxin is the first member of the class of molecules called site 1 sodium channel blockers to be used in human clinical trials as a local anesthetic.

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