NIH – HEAL Initiative: Non-addictive Analgesic Therapeutics Development [Small Molecules and Biologics] to Treat Pain (UG3/UH3 Clinical Trial Optional)

September 25, 2020 by


The purpose of this funding opportunity announcement (FOA) is to support preclinical optimization and development of safe, effective, and non-addictive small molecule and biologic therapeutics to treat pain. The goal of the program is to accelerate the optimization and development of promising small molecule and biologic hits/leads to Phase I clinical trials and readiness for the Early Phase Pain Investigation Clinical Network (EPPIC-Net) or other Phase II clinical studies. Applicants must have a promising biologic or small molecule hit/lead, robust biological rationale for the intended approach, and identified assays for optimization of the agent. The scope of this program includes optimization and early development activities, IND-enabling studies, development of a pharmacodynamic/target engagement biomarker, assembly and filing of an Investigational New Drug (IND) application and Phase I clinical testing. This is a milestone-driven phased cooperative agreement program involving participation of NIH program staff in the development of the project plan and monitoring of research progress.


This study is part of the NIH’s Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) initiative to speed scientific solutions to the national opioid public health crisis. The NIH HEAL Initiative will bolster research across the NIH to (1) improve treatment for opioid misuse and addiction and (2) enhance pain management. More information about the HEAL Initiative is available at:

More than 25 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, a highly debilitating medical condition that is complex and lacks effective treatments. In recent decades, there has been an over reliance on opioids for chronic pain despite their poor ability to improve function. This contributed to a significant and alarming epidemic of opioid overdose deaths and addictions. Innovative scientific solutions to develop alternative treatment options for pain are thus critically needed. As part of the mission of the HEAL Initiative, NINDS is working with other NIH Institutes and Centers to encourage the translation of basic research into new non-addictive pain treatments. This program announcement is intended to create a foundation to initiate the optimization and development of pain therapeutics and catalyze the development of partnerships between the academic and industrial sectors so that translational research in pain can flourish as a cooperative, iterative process leading to safe, effective, and non-addictive treatments for pain.

To facilitate the discovery and development of therapeutics for pain researchers have the opportunity to collaborate with NIH-funded consultants and contract research organizations (CROs) that specialize in medicinal chemistry and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) manufacturing, pharmacokinetics, PET ligand development, biomarker assay validation, pharmacodynamics and related biomarkers,toxicology, formulations development, and Phase I clinical studies. The NIH offers researchers funding for drug discovery and development activities that can be conducted in their own laboratories.

This Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) invites applications for new non-addictive pain therapeutic projects. The Program Director/Principal Investigator (PD/PI) will be responsible for conducting or leading all studies that involve disease- or target-specific assays, models, and other research tools such as target engagement or pharmacodynamic biomarkers. A PD/PI with, for example, medicinal chemistry expertise and resources, may request funding to conduct structure-activity relationship (SAR) studies in his or her own lab but collaborate with contractors on in vitro ADMET, in vivo PK, drug manufacturing and IND-enabling toxicology studies. By contrast, a PD/PI with limited experience in drug discovery and development may opt to collaborate with NIH contractors for all activities not related to disease or target biology. Applicants may propose to conduct all drug discovery and development activities themselves or collaborate with NIH contractors on activities of their choice.

For each project funded under this FOA, the NIH will assemble a customized Lead Development Team (LDT). The LDT will be co-chaired by the PD/PI and a NIH consultant and will include members of the PD/PI’s team, additional subject matter expert consultants, and NIH staff. The LDT will establish an overall strategy for the project, including milestones proposals, plan studies to be conducted by NIH contractors, and coordinate activities across different research sites.

Potential applicants are strongly encouraged to contact NIH Scientific/Research staff and participating NIH Institutes/Centers prior to preparing an application to discuss how they may best utilize NIH contract resources and whether their application fits the mission of a particular NIH IC. See also Applicant Webinar information under Section IV.7 below (“Other Submission Requirements and Information”).

Key Dates:

Open Date (Earliest Submission Date):  October 18, 2020
Letter of Intent Due Date(s): 30 days prior to receipt date.
Application Due Date(s): November 18, 2020, March 24, 2021, July 14, 2021, October 15, 2021, February 15, 2022, June 15, 2022, by 5:00PM local time of applicant organization.

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Filed Under: Funding Opportunities