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The London Pain Consortium making a difference
Europain consortium receives EU and industry funding and begins five year research into better treatments for chronic pain Europain, a public-private consortium funded by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), announced today the launch of a five-year research project to understand and improve treatment of chronic pain. The project will receive 6M€ from the IMI as well as 12.5M€ in kind contribution from the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) over the coming five years.

One in five adults suffers from chronic pain. This constitutes a major cause of long-term sick leave and forced early retirement, placing a great financial burden on both individuals and healthcare systems. Despite extensive research programmes by biopharmaceutical companies and academia, there remains a need for treatments that are more effective and with fewer side-effects.

Europain has established an international team of leading researchers and clinicians from both academia and industry to undertake multidisciplinary translational research. This team aims to increase the understanding of chronic pain mechanisms, help to develop novel analgesics, and develop better biomarkers for pain. Their ultimate goal is to improve the lives of people suffering from chronic pain.

During the five-year project, Europain will undertake a large number of preclinical and clinical studies. The program will be delivered through collaboration between laboratories in the Europain network, sharing resources to improve the value derived from the budget. Results will be made public during and after the project, ensuring that the knowledge created can be widely applied to the development of better therapies for patients suffering from chronic pain.

King’s College London, the managing entity of Europain and the academic lead institution will contribute to both the pre-clinical and clinical aspects of the project. One role will be to study the expression of potential pain mediators in both animal models of pain and samples from patients suffering from chronic pain. The role of novel pain mediators will then be investigated using an array of techniques ranging from cell culture to quantitative sensory testing in humans.

Professor Steve McMahon, who along with Dr Dave Bennett will be running the project at King’s, comments: ‘There are some big questions facing the pain field at the moment and this consortium, drawing on the skills and expertise of both academia and industry, is in a unique position to address them’.

The consortium network involves scientists representing 12 renowned European Universities: King’s College London (Academic lead), University College London, Imperial College London, the University of Oxford, the Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel, the Medical Faculty Mannheim/Heidelberg University, the Technische Universität München, the Goethe University of Frankfurt, the BG University Hospital Bergmannsheil/Ruhr University Bochum, the University Hospitals of Aarhus, Rigshospitalet Copenhagen, University of Southern Denmark, the SME Neuroscience Technologies from Barcelona, and the research resources and expertise of Europe’s most active pharmaceutical companies working in the field of analgesics, including AstraZeneca (co-ordinator), Boehringer-Ingelheim, Eli Lilly, Esteve, Pfizer, Sanofi-Aventis, UCB Pharma.

About the Innovative Medicines Initiative

IMI is a unique Public-Private Partnership (PPP) between the pharmaceutical industry represented by the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) and the European Union represented by the European Commission.
www.imi.europa.eu.
 
Past Research
The Functional Development of Supraspinal Pain Processing in the Human Neonate and Infant
The Fitzgerald research group has established the developmental pattern of neonatal acute pain responses and of primary and secondary hyperalgesia in human infants using spinal flexion withdrawal reflexes and abdominal skin reflexes. However little is known about the sensory processing of both innocuous and noxious stimuli at higher levels of the CNS, particularly at cortical level in neonates and infants. Drs Meek & Wyatt have established the technique of infra red spectroscopy to record cortical activity in very young infants in the neonatal unit at UCH. Dr Boyd is an expert in the recording of event-related potentials in children in GOS. Here we propose to use both these techniques to study the development of supraspinal and cortical responses to both innocuous and noxious stimulation in human infants and investigate central and peripheral factors that may influence these responses.
The study will be carried out on neonates and infants recruited from neonatal intensive care at UCH, tested from 26 to 42 weeks. Cross-sectional and longitudinal data will be collected where possible. The recruitment of patients, recording procedures and data analysis will be performed under joint supervision with Dr Judith Meek & Prof Wyatt and a research nurse.

NIMR trace over sensorimotor cortex following heel lancing a 32 week old infant.

1. Andrews, K. & Fitzgerald, M. (1994) The cutaneous withdrawal reflex in human neonates: sensitization, receptive fields and the effects of contralateral stimulation. Pain 56, 95-101
2. Andrews K, Fitzgerald M. (2002) Wound sensitivity as a measure of analgesic effects following surgery in human neonates and infants. Pain 99:185-192.
3. Andrews, KA, et al.(2002) Abdominal sensitivity in the first year of life: comparison of infants with and without prenatally-diagnosed unilateral hydronephrosis Pain 100:35-46.
4. Meek JH, et al., (1998) Regional hemodynamic responses to visual stimulation in awake infants. Pediatr Res. 1998 Jun;43(6):840-3.
5. Hebden JC, et al.(2002) Three-dimensional optical tomography of the premature infant brain. Phys Med Biol.47:4155-66.
6. Liasis A, et al. (2003) Auditory event-related potentials in the assessment of auditory processing disorders: a pilot study. Neuropediatrics. 34:23-9.