Duke Teams Earn NIH Funding as Part of National Effort to Combat Opioid Crisis

More than $24 million in funding is part of the Helping to End Addiction Long-term Initiative

opioid crisis
Warren Grill

Research teams from Duke received more than $24 million in federal grants to address challenges related to pain and the opioid crisis through the NIH’s Helping to End Addiction Long-term Initiative (NIH HEAL Initiative).

The federal research initiative, launched in early 2018 by NIH Director Francis S. Collins, aims to apply scientific solutions to improve treatments for chronic pain, curb the rates of opioid use disorder and overdose, and achieve long-term recovery for opioid addiction.

The Duke research awards are part of the NIH’s funding allocation that includes 375 grants across 41 states. Additional awards of more than $12 million are anticipated over the next 5 years, which would bring Duke’s total grant amount to more than $36 million.

Among the supported projects is a research program to improve the efficacy of using an implantable medical device that stimulates the spinal cord to treat chronic neuropathic pain. Currently, fewer than two-thirds of people who receive this therapy experience at least a 50 percent reduction in pain, creating a need for new patterns of spinal cord stimulation that provide better pain suppression. The project is led by Warren Grill, professor of biomedical engineering in Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering. It is funded at $1.1 million over 3 years.

“Duke researchers continue to be at the forefront of tackling some of the biggest issues that impact health and wellness in our world today,” said Mary E. Klotman, M.D., dean of the Duke University School of Medicine. “This support from the NIH will allow our faculty to explore new ways of managing chronic pain and overcoming addiction – efforts that could improve the lives of millions of people.”