Press release

Major funding success for research into chronic pain

Published on 27 May 2021

University of Dundee scientists and clinicians have secured £5 million in funding to aid research that aims to establish the causes of vulnerability to chronic pain and advance treatment

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University of Dundee scientists and clinicians have secured £5 million in funding to aid research that aims to establish the causes of vulnerability to chronic pain and advance treatment.

Two Dundee-led projects within the University’s School of Medicine have been awarded the funds by the Advanced Pain Discovery Platform (APDP), a funding mechanism created by UKRI, Versus Arthritis and Eli Lily.

Chronic pain affects millions of people in the UK and is often linked to conditions that include headaches, arthritis, cancer, nerve pain, back pain, fibromyalgia and more. To help address treatment challenges and improve the lives of people affected by pain conditions, a better understanding of the mechanisms of pain is needed.

The Alleviate APDP Pain Research Data Hub aims to deliver a consortium-based platform of national scale, generating discovery and translational science that will break through the complexity of pain and reveal new treatment approaches to address a wide spectrum of chronic and debilitating clinical conditions.

Dundee’s Consortium Against Pain Inequalities (CAPE) project was awarded almost £3M, and Alleviate - APDP Pain Research Data Hub, was awarded £2M. Additionally, more than £1 million of funding will come to the School of Medicine from PAINSTORM, another APDP consortium led by the University of Oxford.

The CAPE team will establish whether exposure to adverse childhood experiences contributes to higher levels of chronic pain in the most deprived communities, which fuels more frequent prescriptions of opioid analgesics and may contribute to drug misuse and increasing drug associated deaths.

Professor Tim Hales, Principal Investigator of CAPE, said, “We are delighted with the success of our proposals. This will enable us to build on our preclinical work, which links early life adversity to increased vulnerability to long term pain and adverse effects of powerful opioid pain killers.

“CAPE will now explore the impact of more complex adverse childhood events on chronic pain and responses to treatment in adult patients. If these relationships are evident from our research, the evidence will inform public health approaches and the development of better treatments for chronic pain in vulnerable populations.”

Research to assist Oxford’s PAINSTORM project will also be undertaken in Dundee, directed by Professors Lesley Colvin and Blair Smith, joint leaders of the School of Medicine’s Chronic Pain Research Group. The consortium aims to discover the causes of neuropathic pain, one of the most common and most distressing types of pain, with a view to preventing it and improving its treatment.

The project will make good use of the unique resources already available at Dundee, including the Clinical Research Imaging Facility led by Professor Douglas Steele, enabling large population studies of pain in diabetes, and innovative assessment of people who develop pain because of chemotherapy treatment for cancer. 

Data from CAPE, PAINSTORM and two other ADPD consortia will be captured, hosted, and curated by Alleviate, led by Professor Emily Jefferson, Director of the School of Medicine’s Health Informatics Centre.

Professor Jefferson said, “Our UK-wide pain data hub will deliver world class health data infrastructure and services for pain research, guided by leading experts in pain research and in partnership with the NHS, the APDP consortia, industry partners and people with lived experience of chronic pain.”

Success securing these awards positions the School of Medicine as a major centre for translational chronic pain research.

Further information on the Alleviate APDP Pain Research Data Hub can be found here and on the HDRUK webpage.


Hannah Adams

Media Relations Officer

+44 (0)1382 385131
Story category Research