Newswise — Chronic pain and misuse of substances, including opiates, cocaine, alcohol, and nicotine, are some of society’s most intractable problems that account for tremendous health care costs, in addition to incalculable pain and suffering. A renowned scientist at Florida Atlantic University’s Schmidt College of Medicine has received a $1.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for a project titled, “Mixed NOP/MU Compounds and the Involvement of Their Receptors in Analgesia.”

Lawrence Toll, Ph.D., principal investigator of the grant, a professor of biomedical science in FAU’s College of Medicine, and a member of the FAU Brain Institute, has focused his research on the management of pain and drug addiction through pharmacology and new drug discovery. He is internationally recognized as the co-discoverer of the endogenous neuropeptide, nociception, which plays a role in the regulation of reward and motivation pathways related to substance misuse and in the regulation of pain pathways from the spinal cord to the brain.

With this latest National Institutes of Health grant, Toll will continue to examine chronic pain-induced changes in the NOP receptor in brain, spinal cord, and dorsal root ganglia to understand how this relates to the development and treatment of chronic pain.

“This National Institutes of Health grant awarded to Dr. Toll will help to address the many challenges associated with managing chronic pain, which affects more than 100 million Americans and costs about $600 billion a year in medical treatments and lost productivity,” said Phillip Boiselle, M.D., dean of FAU’s College of Medicine. “Dr. Toll’s ground-breaking work on the basic mechanisms and the biochemical basis of chronic pain and drug addiction have opened new avenues of research and identified novel drug targets to address both of these disorders, which have reached epidemic proportions.”

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, about 115 million Americans age 12 and older misused prescription pain medicine in 2016. In addition, about 948,000 Americans or 0.03 percent of the population in the United States age 12 and up used heroin in 2016. The number of overdose deaths related to heroin increased 533 percent between 2002 and 2016, from an estimated 2,089 in 2002 to 13,219 in 2016.

“Through this National Institutes of Health grant and other collaborations, we have identified novel compounds with high affinity to both NOP and mu receptors with varying in vivo profiles,” said Toll. “These could potentially be used to treat pain with a lower risk of abuse. Perhaps more interesting are our studies demonstrating changes in the NOP system subsequent to chronic pain. These studies may demonstrate cellular mechanisms for the transition from acute to chronic pain and identify selective NOP compounds as potential treatments for this condition. This could greatly reduce the need for long-term opiate use.”

This research is supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (R01DA023281) awarded to Toll.

- FAU -

About the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine:

FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine is one of approximately 151 accredited medical schools in the U.S. The college was launched in 2010, when the Florida Board of Governors made a landmark decision authorizing FAU to award the M.D. degree. After receiving approval from the Florida legislature and the governor, it became the 134th allopathic medical school in North America. With more than 70 full and part-time faculty and more than 1,300 affiliate faculty, the college matriculates 64 medical students each year and has been nationally recognized for its innovative curriculum. To further FAU’s commitment to increase much needed medical residency positions in Palm Beach County and to ensure that the region will continue to have an adequate and well-trained physician workforce, the FAU Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine Consortium for Graduate Medical Education (GME) was formed in fall 2011 with five leading hospitals in Palm Beach County. In June 2014, FAU’s College of Medicine welcomed its inaugural class of 36 residents in its first University-sponsored residency in internal medicine and graduated its first class of internal medicine residents in 2017.


About Florida Atlantic University:

Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University, with an annual economic impact of $6.3 billion, serves more than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students at sites throughout its six-county service region in southeast Florida. FAU’s world-class teaching and research faculty serves students through 10 colleges: the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, the College of Business, the College for Design and Social Inquiry, the College of Education, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the Graduate College, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. FAU is ranked as a High Research Activity institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University is placing special focus on the rapid development of critical areas that form the basis of its strategic plan: Healthy aging, biotech, coastal and marine issues, neuroscience, regenerative medicine, informatics, lifespan and the environment. These areas provide opportunities for faculty and students to build upon FAU’s existing strengths in research and scholarship. For more information, visit