23andMe, Inc. and drug developer Grünenthal Group said today they will partner on a study intended to glean insights into the genetics of pain.
The partners plan to enroll 20,000 U.S. participants in the study, which they said will be among the largest of its kind that will combine data on genetics and response to pain, including a pain tolerance experiment.
The value of the collaboration was not disclosed.
23andMe will invite eligible genotyped customers who agree to participate in the pain study to provide information about their experience with pain via online surveys the personal genetics company will design with Grünenthal.
Participants will also be asked to self-administer the cold pressor test, designed to determine pain tolerance. The combined data set of survey answers and genetic information will be studied by researchers from 23andMe and Grünenthal for insights into how and why different people experience pain differently, and how best to manage pain with more targeted treatments.
Emily Drabant Conley, Ph.D., 23andMe vp of business development, added that the study aims to understanding genetic factors associated with pain sensitivity, progression, severity, and response to treatments.
“Pain is often a unique experience for each individual, and therefore complex to understand and treat. By leveraging large amounts of genetic and phenotypic data this study may help develop a more personalized approach to pain management,” Dr. Conley said.
Also personalized, says Grünenthal, will be its resulting approach to developing pain treatments based on data from the study.
“One perspective in the context of precision medicine is to use human DNA as guidance for which drugs work best in which patients. We aim to use the outcome of the study to identify starting points for the development of innovative, highly effective medicines,” Grünenthal CEO Gabriel Baertschi said in a statement.
He said the study marked Grünenthal’s first step toward generating the volume of “big data” that increasingly drives drug development.
“This collaboration demonstrates our continued commitment to pain, supporting our ambition to deliver four to five new products to patients in diseases with high unmet needs by 2022,” Baertschi added. With those new treatments, Aachen, Germany-based Grünenthal has committed by then to growing into a €2 billion ($2.2 billion) -a-year drug developer.