June 13, 2016
The University of New England was the highest-funded college or university recipient of Maine’s National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants in 2015, according to rankings that were recently published in the Healthy Business issue of Mainebiz, a Maine business news magazine.
UNE received $3,183, 017 in NIH grants in the 2015 fiscal year. The majority of this funding supports the university’s Center of Biomedical Research Excellence for the Study of Pain and Sensory Function (COBRE).
Headed by Center Director Ian Meng, Ph.D., and Center Co-Director Ed Bilsky, Ph.D., both professors in the Department of Biomedical Sciences in UNE’s College of Osteopathic Medicine (COM), the COBRE was established in 2012 through funding from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences with the aim of significantly contributing to the scientific understanding of the neurobiology of chronic pain by facilitating the discovery and development of novel therapies. The primary focus of the center is to provide support to several junior scientists as they establish independent, extramurally funded research programs.
Meng cited the current opioid epidemic as one reason why the funding of the study of pain and the quest to find opioid alternatives is so crucial. “Research in our pain center is focused on discovering new treatments for chronic pain. Finding alternatives to the opioids is critical so we can continue to provide care for chronic pain patients while combating the opioid epidemic," he stated.
During the 2015 fiscal year, UNE’s COBRE- supported researchers received $1,880,487 in NIH grants. The funding primarily supports four UNE researchers in their study of projects related to pain and sensory function. Ling Cao, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences, studies the interaction between the immune system and the nervous system, exploring the impact of immune cells on pain stemming from nerve injury. Diseased-induced bone and joint pain is the focus of research by Tamara King, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences, who analyzes pathological changes in relation to pain as well as the potential effects of treatment on disease and pain. Geoffrey Ganter, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Biology, studies the fruit fly (Drosophila Melanogaster) to identify novel genes involved in pain perception; and Lei Lei, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Biology, investigates nerve cells that send pain signals to the spinal cord and brain and explores how these cells behave after nerve injury.
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