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Faculty & Staff Honors

UNC: With ~$52M in Funding from NIH HEAL Initiative, Researchers Join Fight Against National Opioid Crisis

To reverse the opioid crisis that continues to grip the United States, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded $945 million in funding across 41 states through the Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) Initiative. This aggressive research effort aims to improve treatments for chronic pain, curb the rates of opioid use disorder and overdose, and achieve long-term recovery from opioid addiction.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health are leading one of the 375 grant awards that, together, make up the NIH HEAL Initiative.

Dr. Lisa LaVange, professor and associate chair in the Gillings School’s Department of Biostatistics, is principal investigator for the $51.781 million “Back Pain Consortium (BACPAC) Research Program Data Integration, Algorithm Development and Operations Management Center (DAC).”

The BACPAC research program is a translational, patient-centered effort to address the need for effective and personalized therapies for chronic low back pain — one of the most common forms of chronic pain among adults worldwide. Current treatment options are ineffective, which has led to an increased use of opioids.

“We are very excited to be selected as the DAC for the BACPAC research program,” said LaVange. “We will work with mechanistic research centers, technology research sites and phase 2 clinical trial groups to deliver an integrated model of chronic lower back pain and explore innovative technologies. Our team includes experts from the Gillings School, the UNC School of Medicine and UNC’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.”

Dr. Anastasia Ivanova, professor of biostatistics at the Gillings School, is the co-principal investigator.

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