Marine Organisms for the Treatment of Chronic Pain

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Sea4Us  is a recently created Portuguese biotechnology company that uses marine compounds for the development of novel therapeutic drugs, particularly for chronic pain (see below) – a clinical condition that does not have a proper treatment. Scientific research developed at Sea4Us revealed that certain marine species, currently with no commercial value and that are found on the rocky bottoms of our sea, demonstrate enormous potential for the treatment of chronic pain.

Although we have raised some funding, this is not yet available and is allocated to specific laboratory activities of our project. At the moment, we have no funds to dive and collect marine samples, something that is essential and the basis of all our activities. This crowdfunding campaign is intended to raise funds in order to collect samples for a period of a month and a half, planned for the end of this summer. This is the season with the best weather conditions for diving. Missing the summer diving season will result in postponing all downstream laboratory activities for another year.

The activity of collecting marine samples comprises several steps: 1) identification and collection of species of interest; and 2) suitable processing and storage at the collection site. Only then proper laboratory analysis of bioactive compounds produced by these marine species and the testing of analgesic activity in models of chronic pain are possible. Collecting marine samples represents only a small part of our project to develop a new painkiller, but it is crucial for it!




What is chronic pain?

Chronic pain is a syndrome caused by various pathologies (diabetes, cancer, arthritis, fibromyalgia, shingles, etc.) and it affects 1.5 billion people worldwide (21% of world population), causing a huge negative impact on society. Besides being a terrible condition for these patients, it also has enormous associated economic costs. Among the direct costs are, for example, health care costs, while indirect costs correspond to workplace absenteeism and low productivity, caused by the intense pain. In Portugal, for example, the weight of the direct and indirect costs on the economy, related to chronic pain, represent nearly 3% of gross domestic product (GDP)! Although there are effective and safe analgesics for mild pain, there are no effective treatments for moderate and severe pain, and the ones that exist cause non-negligible side effects.

What is Sea4Us's strategy?

Some marine invertebrates such as sponges, anemones, corals or bryozoans, among others, are the only animals on our planet that are fixed to the rocks and at the mercy of predators, without being able to escape. Millions of years of evolution on these marine animals resulted in highly specialized and ingenious solutions for defense against predators. In the absence of spines or strong shells, the development of toxins that act as chemical defenses is very common. These toxins are often paralyzing anesthetics or powerful painkillers. Here lies the inspiration of Sea4Us and its enormous potential for the discovery of new therapeutic compounds.

It is time to determine the true value of biodiversity of our sea, particularly for the strategic area of biotechnology! The solution for the treatment of chronic pain is in the nature. This is Sea4Us’s belief. Help us in this quest!


About the author


Sea4Us is a Portuguese biotechnology company that performs scientific research projects focused on the search for bioactive compounds from marine organisms. Our laboratory results demonstrate bioactivity of natural compounds of Portuguese marine origin in cellular models representative of chronic pain.


Pedro A. Lima has a BSc degree in Marine Biology and Fisheries by the University of Algarve and holds a PhD in Neurophysiology from the University of Sheffield (UK). On the one hand, he has knowledge and experience in Biochemistry, Pharmacology and Neuroscience; on the other, he has expertise in biology of the species and aquaculture techniques. It is from the convergence of these two major areas, Marine Biology and Neuroscience, that this project was born.


Filipe Vilas-Boas holds a BSc degree in Microbiology and Genetics and a Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Lisbon. He performed his PhD studies on the embryonic development of the nervous system at the Institute of Molecular Medicine in Lisbon and the University of Dundee in Scotland.

"Every time we dive and collect marine extracts, new scientific advances can arise in biomedicine and as well as new possibilities for pharmaceutical drugs."


Marisa Sousa graduated in Pathology at the Lisbon Polytechnic Institute and holds a PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics from the University of Lisbon. She developed part of her PhD research at the University of Regensburg (Germany) and the State University of Campinas (Brazil).

"There are still several human diseases with no therapeutic response, including Chronic Pain; and our idea was to find a way to respond to this need, using marine animals, particularly those who use toxins to defend themselves from predators, creating a new generation of drugs."


Hugo Pacheco holds a BSc degree in Economics from the Technical University of Lisbon and subsequently a Post-Graduate degree in Financial Analysis. He is currently Director of Pre-sales and Solution in the area of Business Process Transformation in the field of document management.






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