There is a critical need for effective new pharmacotherapies for pain. The paucity of new drugs successfully reaching the clinic calls for a reassessment of current analgesic drug discovery approaches. Many points early in the discovery process present significant hurdles, making it critical to exploit advances in pain neurobiology to increase the probability of success. In this review, we highlight approaches that are being pursued vigorously by the pain community for drug discovery, including innovative preclinical pain models, insights from genetics, mechanistic phenotyping of pain patients, development of biomarkers, and emerging insights into chronic pain as a disorder of both the periphery and the brain. Collaborative efforts between pharmaceutical, academic, and public entities to advance research in these areas promise to de-risk potential targets, stimulate investment, and speed evaluation and development of better pain therapies.
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