Gerald Zamponi

Professor, Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Cumming School of Medicine
Canadian Research Chair, Molecular Neurobiology

Dr. Zamponi’s research addresses how ion channels and receptors contribute to neurological disorders such as chronic pain, with the goal of developing strategies to regulate ion channel function for therapeutic intervention. As well, his work deciphers the structural and functional connection of brain circuits that control sensory and emotional components of pain.

It is estimated that moderate to severe chronic pain impacts 1.5 billion people around the world. While current pain therapies provide patients with varying degrees of relief, many of these treatments lack efficacy and cause adverse side-effects. Therefore, there is a pressing need for new types of therapeutic interventions.

Dr. Zamponi and his research team have identified a new molecular target for chronic pain states that regulates the T-type calcium channels. Based on this discovery, he co-founded Zymedyne Therapeutics Inc. (Zymedyne), a University of Calgary start-up focused on developing the next generation of non-opioid based analgesics. Further research resulted in the team developing an ELISA based high throughput screen assay that identified a novel pharmacophore which his research team is working on refining into a druggable molecule. Not only does this technology constitute an entirely novel therapeutic approach in chronic pain management, but it is truly innovative because it targets the mechanism that is selectively engaged in pain states at the molecular level. This approach to precision therapeutics to treat chronic pain has substantial commercial value and provides a solution to an unmet medical need for patients with these conditions.

Outcomes from this research have resulted in multiple patents being issued in the US, Canada, and Europe to Dr. Zamponi based on this therapeutic target mechanism. Also, Zymedyne has received over $950 K in research funding to continue drug development and to explore commercial applications for their technology. This includes support from a Life Sciences Innovation Fellowship through Innovate Calgary, an Accelerating Innovations into CARE (AICE) concept grant from Alberta Innovates, UCEED Funding, and funding from Campus Alberta Neuroscience. For his overall research on drug development and commercialization, Dr. Zamponi has been awarded an Alberta Science and Technology Prize (ASTech Award) and a University of Calgary PEAK Scholars award. Most recently, Dr. Zamponi was elected as a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (USA).

In addition to the above research program, Dr. Zamponi and his research team have also discovered a new class of T-type calcium channel inhibitors that are effective in preclinical models of chronic pain. In collaboration with researchers from Dermaxon, the team continues drug development with the goal to create a topical agent to treat chronic itch. A US patent has been issued to protect this technology.

Dr. Zamponi will use his Innovation Fellowship to cover patent and legal expenses to protect Zymedyne’s intellectual property outside of the United States. If required, a portion of the funding would provide salary support to hire a summer student to work on a project related to Zymedyne’s technology.

Dr. Gerald Zamponi, PhD

The Parex Innovation Fellowship is a tremendous honour. Not only am I grateful for being recognized by our Institution for the work that we do, it also will help us to further advance our innovative technology platform.

Dr. Gerald Zamponi, PhD