The University of Arizona Health Sciences and the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences have joined forces to combat the opioid crisis and chronic pain through research, treatment and education.

The partnership will share institutional resources from three research centers – the University of Arizona Health Sciences Comprehensive Center for Pain and Addiction (CCPA), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)-funded Center for Excellence in Addiction Studies (CEAS) at UArizona Health Sciences, and the OSU Center for Health Sciences’ National Center for Wellness & Recovery (NCWR) – to advance pain and addiction research and accelerate positive health outcomes in Arizona, Oklahoma and across the country.

three men stand posed outside

Frank Porreca, PhD, principal investigator on the Center of Excellence for Addiction Studies grant, Don Kyle, PhD, CEO of the National Center for Wellness and Recovery, and Todd Vanderah, PhD, director of the Comprehensive Pain and Addiction Center, are leading the three research entities that are collaborating through the partnership to advance pain and addiction research.

​The NCWR has access to approximately 18,000 novel research molecules from Purdue Pharma that were designed to target neuronal mechanisms associated with chronic pain and addiction. In addition, there are 40,000-50,000 human biosamples from consenting patients enrolled in more than 20 Phase 2 and 3 clinical trials involving opioids and non-opioids. Recently, the NCWR has begun collecting additional biosamples from patients suffering from addiction or who are in recovery and undergoing treatment at NCWR treatment centers in Oklahoma. These unique assets, collected over more than two decades, enable research into risk factors, causes and potential treatments for addiction and chronic pain.

The CCPA is composed of a group of world-class scientists with expertise in the overlapping neurobiology of chronic pain and addiction whose work will be strengthened by the availability of novel chemical matter from the NCWR. The CEAS will provide expertise in genetic targeting, the use of neuroanalytical methods, large data analysis and advanced behavioral assessment of these drug-like substances, providing the critical data that can lead to advancement to clinical trials.

Additionally, both the CCPA and the CEAS are committed to training paraprofessionals in substance use disorder for the work force and educating students, as well as creating a Southwestern Region Addiction Network with collaborations with university investigators in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma.

The goals of the three research centers are aligned with the NIDA and the National Institutes of Health's Helping to End Addiction Long-term, or HEAL, initiative. They are focused on combating the opioid crisis, ameliorating the suffering of chronic pain while decreasing opioid use, finding alternatives to opioids for treating acute and chronic pain, and promoting recovery and prevention of relapse from opioid use disorder, as well as the development of rapidly acting medications for opioid overdose through the advancement of novel chemistry, biology, therapies, clinical trials and education.