An $11.8-million, 5-year grant from the National Institutes of Health will fund the creation of a Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) to address Rhode Island’s and the nation’s opioid epidemic.
“There is a tremendous need for greater scientific understanding of the mechanisms underpinning opioid use disorder and a need for more effective interventions to treat and prevent opioid misuse and overdose,” said Dr. Josiah “Jody” Rich, principal investigator and a professor at the Brown University School of Public Health.
“This center will bring together experts from institutions across Rhode Island to support excellence in the research needed to combat the opioid epidemic hampering and taking the lives of our friends and neighbors,” added Dr. Rich, who is also director of the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights at Lifespan’s The Miriam Hospital.
Researchers from Rhode Island and Women and Infants Hospitals, along with Brown University will work together to investigate the epidemic from all angles.
“You can’t just have one person working in a lab. You need that person in the lab to talk to the people in the street, to talk to the physician, to talk to the people that are addicted themselves,” Dr. Rich said.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Rhode Island ranks among the top 10 states for the rate of opioid-overdose deaths. Dr. Traci Green, a center leader, says that Rhode Island is an ideal place to study the opioid epidemic for other reasons as well.
“The unique political and public health climate that has been cultivated over decades of collaboration among members of this research team, community partners, and key stakeholders makes Rhode Island an ideal location to establish the COBRE on Opioids and Overdose,” she said.
Specific research topics for the center have already been identified, including withdrawal in babies, pain treatment in the ER, and the combination of addiction treatment and behavioral therapies in teens.
“Each of those projects could nurture a really interesting and important contribution to science and a really practical way of thinking about how we treat people across the lifespan,” Dr. Green said.
Drs. Rich and Green are advisors to Governor Gina Raimondo’s Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force and have previously collaborated on a significant research study that reduced overdose deaths among individuals