A local therapeutic drug company recently received a $15 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to continue development on a non-opioid option for post-operative pain relief.

The grant is to fund SiteOne’s continuing research into its most promising chemical compound, referred to as ST-2427. That compound targets NaV1.7, a sodium receptor that tells the brain when it’s feeling pain. SiteOne’s lead compound targets NaV1.7 and temporarily shuts it down.

“I think we’ve achieved a level of selectivity no other [competitor] on the market has,” said SiteOne CEO Stan Abel.

NaV1.7 is one of nine sodium receptors, all of which look extremely similar. Some control functions in the brain or diaphragm — block those, and seizures or respiratory problems could follow.

“You have to develop a compound smart enough to block just that one compound,” he said.

That’s where ST-2427 comes in. Abel said it’s not only potent but selective enough to identify and target the correct sodium channel.

SiteOne is a private biopharmaceutical company with headquarters and a lab in Bozeman and a research lab in San Francisco. Its focus since it began eight years ago has been on non-opioid pain management. Abel joined the company as CEO in 2014.

Non-opioid pain relief options are of high interest for drug developers, Abel said, but are notoriously hard to develop. He said the long-term goal of ST-2427 is “hopefully reducing the need for fentanyl and morphine” in hospitals. As it stands, the drug may be available as IV in hospitals sometime in the late 2020s, after it’s fully developed and goes through several levels of FDA safety testing.

Montana was home to 345 drug overdose deaths between 2015 and 2017, according to the DPHHS report, “Opioid Prescribing Practices in Montana.” About 86 of those deaths were from opioids. According to the report, the number of opioid-related deaths in Montana has been falling since 2013. But both Abel and the report said it’s important to remain aware of the dangers of opioids and opioid addiction, especially as the potent drug fentanyl increases in popularity.

{span}Melissa Loveridge can be reached at {/span}mloveridge@dailychronicle.com{span} or at 406-582-2603. Follow her on Twitter @mel_loveridge.{/span}