NINDS' Role in the HEAL Initiative

word mash containing reference to the NIH HEAL initiative

NINDS' Role in the HEAL Initiative

Launched in April 2018, the NIH Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) Initiative is an aggressive, trans-agency effort to speed scientific solutions to stem the national opioid public health crisis. The Initiative will advance research to reduce the risks of opioid use and misuse and improve pain management, thereby reducing reliance on opioids. NINDS is the lead Institute for pain research at NIH and leads the Executive Committee of the NIH Pain Consortium which includes 23 Institutes and Centers. The NIH Pain Consortium’s mission includes improving the treatment of a variety of pain conditions. NINDS will focus efforts in the NIH HEAL Initiative in developing non-addictive pain treatments that may displace the need for opioids, and importantly, serve as effective treatments for acute and chronic pain conditions for which opioids are not effective. This work will be informed by partners from the government, industry, academia, and patients suffering from pain.

The following are a list of NIH HEAL Initiative program that will be led by NINDS. All HEAL Initiative funding opportunities are available on the NIH HEAL Initiative website, and all NIH funding opportunities related to pain are available on the NIH Pain Consortium website.

These programs will promote the discovery and validation of novel therapeutic targets to facilitate the development of pain treatments that have minimal side effects and little to no abuse/addiction liability as alternatives to opioids. Identifying and rigorously validating new targets for pain treatments will lower the risk of adopting the target in translational projects to develop small molecules, biologics, natural substances, or devices that interact with this target for new pain treatments.

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The Preclinical Screening Platform for Pain (PSPP) will establish a preclinical testing platform to test potential non-addictive treatments (small molecules, biologics, or natural products) for acute and/or chronic pain. The platform will develop and acquire animal models that more closely mimic a variety of human pain conditions and will use these models to test and characterize promising non-addictive therapeutic candidates submitted by the research community. 

Jan. 30-31, 2019 - Workshop: Critical Evaluation of Animal Pain Models

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This program will support preclinical optimization and development of safe, effective, and non-addictive small molecule and biologic therapeutics to treat pain. The goal of the program is to accelerate promising small molecule and biologic hits/leads towards clinical trials.

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These programs will promote the discovery and validation of strong candidate biomarkers and endpoints for pain that can be used to facilitate the development of non-opioid pain therapeutics from discovery through Phase II clinical trials.

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EPPIC-Net will provide a robust and readily accessible infrastructure for carrying out in-depth phenotyping and biomarker studies in patients with specific pain conditions, and the rapid design and performance of high-quality Phase 2 clinical trials to test promising novel therapeutics for pain from partners in academia or industry. Studies will bring intense focus to patients with well-defined pain conditions and high unmet therapeutic needs. This network will also collaborate with a new program focused on chronic low back pain under consideration at NIH and led by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS).

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Through the NIH Common Fund program, the Directors of NINDS and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) co-chair a working group to lead the Acute to Chronic Pain Signatures program which will develop a set of objective biomarkers that provide a “signature” to predict a transition from acute to chronic pain, in order to accelerate therapy development and ultimately to guide pain prevention strategies.

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NIH will support preclinical development, translation, and demonstration of safe, effective, and non-addictive device-based technologies and approaches to treat pain. 

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This broad research effort seeks to improve pain care through understanding the development of chronic pain and by accelerating and improving the process of therapy development to more rapidly move discoveries into clinical practice to alleviate the burden of pain.

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