Recent advances in molecular and behavioral pharmacology suggest that novel opioid analgesics selective for the kappa opioid receptor system may provide effective pain relief without having the addiction risk common to mu-selective opioid agonists. New insights from molecular signaling studies suggest strategies to develop kappa opioid agonists lacking the dysphoric effects of the currently available compounds. In addition, the role of the endogenous dynorphin/kappa opioid systems in mediating the dysphoric effects of stress that increase addiction risk and precipitate relapse of drug taking has also strongly stimulated interest in the therapeutic potential of selective kappa opioid antagonists. Progress in the development of novel therapeutics based on these insights has been greatly stimulated by bringing all of the scientists from academic and corporate research units together for intensive and open discussions in two prior conferences on the Therapeutic Potential of Kappa Opioids for the Treatment of Pain and Addiction held in Seattle WA (2011) and Cambridge, MA (2013). No other venue invites all the 1) medicinal chemists developing novel ligands based on recent kappa receptor crystal structure insights, 2) molecular, cellular & behavioral pharmacologists doing preclinical characterizations of kappa opioid functional selectivity, 3) clinical scientists identifying the roles of dynorphin/kappa in human addictions and mood disorders, and 4) corporate scientists conducting clinical trials and drug development studies. Support is now requested to continue this series of conferences in 2015, 2017 and 2019. Plans for the next conference on the Therapeutic Potential of Kappa Opioids for the Treatment of Pain and Addiction to be held in Chapel Hill, NC on April 21-24, 2015 are developing well. The draft-program and plans to use the conference facilities at the Carolina Inn in historic Chapel Hill are coalescing nicely. Plans are also being developed by the program committee for future meetings in Philadelphia (2017) and San Diego (2019). The conference organizers have successfully involved both the established leaders in the kappa opioid field as well as junior scientists. The meeting has achieved reasonable gender balance of its speakers by actively welcoming all interested participants. Active support of minority scientists' participation has also helped ensure the diversity of the meeting. The goal of the conference is to help build the momentum in the field necessary to translate basic research findings into new therapeutic options for the nonaddictive treatment of pain, new treatments for stress-induced mood disorders, and effective treatments that can reduce addiction risk by enhancing stress-resilience.
Effective treatments for pain and addiction are greatly needed to address these pervasive conditions, syndromes and diseases that are so common in our society. Novel approaches for the treatment of chronic pain states would benefit millions of suffers. The role of chronic stress in increasing the risk of mood disorders and addiction has been clearly documented, but effective treatments that increase stress-resilience and reduce risk of depression and addiction are not currently available. The proposed conference series would focus research attention on these pressing Public Health issues.