Novel long-acting and orally delivered conotoxin-based peptides with both analgesic efficacy and disease modifying potential

Project opportunity

This Earmarked Scholarship project is aligned with a recently awarded Category 1 research grant. It offers you the opportunity to work with leading researchers and contribute to large projects of national significance.

This research project aims to develop a peptide drug candidate/s, for the treatment of chronic pain, based on a group of conotoxins that modulate both nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) and voltage-activated calcium channels.

The a-conotoxins are a family of peptides and two members of this family have effectively relieved pain in several rat models of neuropathic pain. These peptides are selective for a particular subtype of nAChR and also inhibit high voltage-activated calcium channel currents via activation of the GABAB receptor, and both targets are potential mechanism of analgesia.

This PhD project aims to develop a series of pre-clinical candidates that have potent activities at both these targets, have suitable “drug-like” properties including stability and pharmacokinetic profiles, and show analgesic efficacy in rodent models of neuropathic pain. To achieve these goals the candidate will assist in the design and synthesis of novel conotoxin analogues using solid phase peptide synthesis, and undertake pharmacokinetic and animal efficacy studies on lead analogues. The successful completion of this project will result in a series of novel analgesic lead candidates with a validated mechanism of action for the treatment of chronic pain.

The supervisory team for the successful PhD candidate working on this project comprises Em. Professor Maree Smith and Dr Colton Payne at the School of Biomedical Sciences.

Scholarship value

As a scholarship recipient, you'll receive: 

  • living stipend of $32,192 per annum tax free (2023 rate), indexed annually
  • tuition fees covered
  • single Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)


Dr Colton Payne

Faculty of Medicine


Preferred educational background

Your application will be assessed on a competitive basis.

We take into account your

  • previous academic record
  • publication record
  • honours and awards
  • employment history.

A working knowledge of chemistry, peptide chemistry, pharmacology and/or pharmacokinetics would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of pharmacology and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of in-vivo pharmacokinetics and efficacy studies is highly desirable.

Latest commencement date

If you are the successful candidate, you must commence by Research Quarter 1, 2023. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date.

If you are an international applicant, you may need to apply much earlier for visa requirements.

How to apply

You apply for this project as part of your PhD program application.

View application process