Fighting pain with cannabis while avoiding side-effects

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Activating the cannabinoid CB1 receptors (CB1R) with delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive component of Cannabis sativa, produces analgesia. However, this CB1R activation is associated with serious negative side effects, such as cognitive impairment, which limits its use as a therapeutic agent. The Cannabis Fighting-Pain project has designed, synthesized and completed in vitro and in vivo testing on a family of new peptides that produces analgesia while preventing the undesirable effects of THC.



  • To commercialise a new series of compounds that provide the analgesic effect of cannabinoids without the associated side effects.

Problem to Solve

Nearly one in five Europeans suffers from chronic pain, which has a severe effect on their everyday lives. This figure accounts for nearly 500 million lost working days per year and costs the European economy at least €34 billion.

The cannabinoid compounds that are already available on the pharmaceutical market have an enormous potential as therapeutic analgesics but they cause significant side effects, including cognitive impairment, anxiety and other psychoactive effects, which limits their therapeutic applications. There is therefore an urgent need to develop tools that minimize the side effects of cannabinoids while taking advantage of their significant pain relief potential.


Cannabis Fighting-Pain changes the current paradigm regarding pain relief drugs in two different ways. First, by developing peptides that are more efficient, specific and selective than drugs based on small molecules, in addition to being less toxic and barely accumulating in tissues. And secondly, by avoiding the typical cognitive impairment associated with the use of cannabinoids, through a new mode of action.


Level of Innovation

The peptide leads have already been tested both in vitro and in vivo. The results show an entirely new concept of selective interference through the signalling repertoire of cell surface receptors. This opens the door to a potentially new strategy to develop signalling pathway-specific therapeutics.



Project leader. Professor of Pharmacology.

Rafael Maldonado

UPF - Universitat Pompeu Fabra

Project leader

Project co-leader. Professor of Chemistry.

David Andreu

UPF - Universitat Pompeu Fabra

PhD student

Maria Gallo

UPF - Universitat Pompeu Fabra

Project co-leader. Professor of Biostatistics.

Leonardo Pardo

UAB - Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

Project co-leader. Associate Professor of Biochemistry.

Vicent Casadó

UB - Universitat de Barcelona

Postdoctoral researcher. Associate Professor of Biochemistry.

Estefania Moreno

UB - Universitat de Barcelona

Technology Transfer Manager

Mamen Carmona

UPF - Universitat Pompeu Fabra

Research/Project Manager

Miquel-Àngel Serra

UPF - Universitat Pompeu Fabra

Knowledge Transfer Coordinator

Anna Sagardoy

UPF - Universitat Pompeu Fabra

CEO at UPF Ventures

Àlex Casta

UPF - Universitat Pompeu Fabra


CEO at Aelix Therapeutics

José Luis Cabero

Aelix Therapeutics & Symbiokraft


Obra social “la Caixa”
Caixa Capital Risc
CI.V 18

Scientific Area


Business area


Research center

Universitat Pompeu Fabra