University of New England awarded $10M grant, largest in school history, to study chronic pain

Posted Aug. 13, 2012, at 6:34 p.m.

BIDDEFORD, Maine — The University of New England late Monday afternoon announced it has been awarded a $10 million grant, the largest research award in school history, to establish a center focused on the study of chronic pain and sensory function.

The grant money was awarded by the National Institutes of Health to help launch UNE’s new Center of Biomedical Research Excellence, or COBRE, for the Study of Pain and Sensory Function. There, university scientists led by doctors Edward Bilsky and Ian Meng will study the human nervous system and the science behind chronic pain, seeking the development of new forms of therapy.

“Chronic pain is a major health, social and economic problem worldwide, affecting about one in three people,” said Meng in a statement. “Although research has vastly increased our knowledge about the basic mechanisms of acute, inflammatory and neuropathic pain, relatively little is known about the processes involved in the transition from acute to chronic pain. Funding will help drive innovative research that increases our understanding of pain as a progressive disease, while also connecting us with strategic partners who can translate these findings into new treatments for patients suffering from chronic pain.”

The grant money will help fund additional neurobiology researchers at the center, as well as the renovation of laboratory space, and the purchase of core behavioral, imaging and histology equipment, the school announced.

“The COBRE award is the culmination of many years of hard work and investment from faculty members and the institution,” said Bilsky, who also serves as founding director of UNE’s Center for Excellence in the Neurosciences, in a statement. “Through both a common vision of building biomedical research capacity at the university and a passion around relieving the burden of pain, UNE has assembled a talented group of scientists, physicians and health professionals.

“The National Institutes of Health have recognized the progress made to date, and have made a very significant investment in ensuring that we continue to grow our pain and neuroscience research programs,” he continued.

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