The University of New England announced Tuesday that it will receive more than $5 million from the federal government to continue its research into the study of pain and new pain therapeutics.

UNE’s Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE), which is based at the university’s Biddeford campus, will use the $5.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to support its third and final phase of research. This latest grant means that the center has received more than $25 million for pain research over the last 10 years.

The University of New England in Biddeford, Maine. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer, file

UNE said the COBRE research contributes to the scientific understanding of the neurobiology of chronic pain, and helps facilitate the discovery and development of novel therapies. Those therapies can include new drugs and non-pharmaceutical treatment options for people suffering chronic pain.

“It is a major goal of the COBRE program to be a part of workforce training for Maine and also to be a valuable research tool that is not just internal to UNE,” the center’s director, Ian Meng, Ph.D., said in a statement. “We want people outside UNE to see COBRE as something that can help boost not just research at UNE, but also boost the economy and biomedical science community in Maine.”

In addition to developing long-term partnerships with such organizations as Corning and the Maine Medical Center Research Institute, the center focuses on supporting junior scientists, who often branch out to establish their own independent research programs. In the last decade, several COBRE-funded junior faculty have received grants that furthered their study of pain research.

Benjamin Harrison, an assistant professor of biochemistry and nutrition, received $1.8 million from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke to develop non-opioid pain treatments. Harrison said the support he has received from the center led to his success.

“The COBRE allowed me to come to work at UNE, set up a lab, hire a team, get all the materials and instrumentation needed to conduct my experiments, and apply for independent funding,” he said. “If it weren’t for the COBRE, I quite simply wouldn’t be at UNE, and there’s no way I would have had the support that I have.”

Students also benefit from the center’s core research facilities. Students have the opportunity to be trained, and to conduct research in the behavioral and histology and imaging programs that house high-tech microscopes and imaging analysis software.

The center was established in 2012 with funding from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.


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