Maine’s senators congratulate UNE for national pain research grant

Geoff Ganter, one of the scientists for UNE's COBRE pain research, studies pain pathways in fruit flies
Geoff Ganter, one of the scientists for UNE's COBRE, studies pain pathways in fruit flies

June 16, 2017

The University of New England has received a $10.7 million, 5-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to continue building its research center devoted to finding improved treatments for chronic pain.  

The award funds UNE’s Center of Biomedical Research Excellence for the Study of Pain and Sensory Function (COBRE). The COBRE, led by Ian Meng, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences in the UNE College of Osteopathic Medicine (UNE COM), has supported pain research since it was established in 2012. Its researchers seek to understand the causes of chronic pain in order to facilitate the development of new, non-addictive treatments that can be used as alternatives to opioids. 

“The University of New England is at the forefront of research to reduce chronic pain,” Senators Collins and King said in a joint statement. “Across Maine and the country, we are facing a drug epidemic that is fueled in part by the vast supply of prescription opioids currently in circulation, which is why UNE’s research to develop new alternatives to opioid treatments is so urgent and important. We commend the National Institutes of Health for recognizing UNE’s great work and applaud UNE for its determination to further innovation in the biomedical field. It makes our families safer and our communities stronger.”

Chronic pain is a serious public health problem, estimated to affect 100 million people nation-wide, yet there is a limited understanding behind what influences the development of chronic pain. The public health problem surrounding chronic pain is further complicated by the current opioid epidemic. Opioids have been the go-to treatment for chronic pain despite the lack of studies to back up the long-term efficacy or safety of these drugs. 
“We are very excited about making an impact on how chronic pain is treated,” said Meng. “At the same time, this award will allow us to continue building research infrastructure within Maine, making this region an attractive draw for the biotech industry.”  

The grant is part of the Institutional Development Award (IDeA) program. The IDeA program builds research capacities in states that historically have had low levels of NIH funding by supporting basic, clinical and translational research; faculty development; and infrastructure improvements. The primary focus of the COBRE at UNE is to support several junior scientists as they establish independent, extramurally funded research programs. Additional support is provided to recruit new investigators and build vital research infrastructure at the university. Funding includes the acquisition of the first 2-photon microscope in Southern Maine, which will allow researchers to see in new ways the changes that occur to neurons after injury.

Read more in the Portland Press Herald. 

To learn more about UNE’s Center of Biomedical Research Excellence for the Study of pain and Sensory Function, visit www.une.edu/research/cobre 

To apply, visit www.une.edu/admissions

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