NIH Calling Pain Investigators to Join HEAL Initiative Research

Newswise — MILWAUKEE, April 6, 2019 -- In April 2018, NIH launched the HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-term) Initiative, an aggressive, trans-agency effort to speed scientific solutions to attack the national opioid public health crisis.  Today, at the American Pain Society Scientific Meeting, a leading NIH official said the HEAL Initiative offers a tremendous opportunity to advance the science of pain and more effective, nonaddictive treatments.   The HEAL Initiative will foster unprecedented collaboration among federal agencies, academic research institutes and the health care industry. 

Walter Koroshetz, MD, director, National Institute for Neurological Diseases and Stroke (NINDS), in a plenary session address, said NIH has identified 26 research priorities to help serve unmet needs for discovering rapid and durable solutions to the opioid crisis. 

“A focus of the HEAL Initiative is to develop non-addictive pain treatments that may displace the need for opioids and be more effective therapies for acute and chronic pain,” said Koroshetz.  “This is a unique opportunity to advance pain science, but the entire pain research community must engage in the effort for it to be successful,” he said.

The Heal Initiative research plan focuses on two priorities:  improving prevention and treatment for opioid misuse and addiction and enhancing pain management.  “New, safer effective treatment options for pain management are needed to improve quality of life and reduce the number of people exposed to the risks of opioids. Toward this goal, NIH will take a multipronged approach to support research across the drug development spectrum,” Koroshetz explained. 

NIH has issued almost 30 new funding opportunity announcements to solicit research proposals through HEAL, according to Koroshetz.  The agency plans to award more than $850 million in FY 2019 and will invest in the full spectrum of research from basic science to translational studies. 

Koroshetz called attention a unique industry-academia collaboration funded through HEAL called the Early Phase Pain Intervention Clinical Network (EPPIC-Net).  The program allows drug and device companies to work with a network of academic centers to conduct expedited early phase clinical trials.  “We will be seeking additional applications from research organizations to build a powerful US pain clinical trial network for the evaluation of promising new treatments for a full spectrum of pain conditions. One specific program in EPPIC-net will coordinate with the HEAL Back-Pain Consortium (BACPAC).

For pain management research, NIH is reviewing grant proposals to

  • Understand the biological underpinnings of chronic pain including transition from acute to chronic pain,
  • Accelerate the discovery and pre-clinical development of non-addictive treatments for pain, and
  • Advance new non-additive treatments for pain through the clinical pipeline.

“Through HEAL, NIH will also support the Effectiveness Research Network (ERN) to conduct clinical research that will inform physicians and patients on best treatment strategies for specific pain conditions. Some comparative effectiveness studies as part of the Pragmatic and Implementation Studies for the Management of Pain (PRISM), will focus on non-pharmacologic interventions in real world settings,” said Koroshetz.

About the American Pain Society

Based in Chicago, the American Pain Society (APS) is a multidisciplinary community that brings together a diverse group of scientists, clinicians and other professionals to increase the knowledge of pain and transform public policy and clinical practice to reduce pain-related suffering.  APS is the professional home for investigators involved in all aspects of pain research including basic, translational, clinical and health services research to obtain the support and inspiration they need to flourish professionally.  APS strongly advocates expansion of high-quality pain research to help advance science to achieve effective and responsible pain relief.  For more information on APS, visit