NIH HEAL Initiative-Early-Stage Discovery of New Pain Targets Within the Understudied Druggable Proteome (R03)

Funding Opportunity Number: PAR-24-197

Deadlines: June 16, 2024, July 16, 2024, October 16, 2024, November 16, 2024

Application Budgets: Limited to $100,000 in direct costs


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

This notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) aims to promote innovative research to increase knowledge of understudied proteins in the context of pain and pain management. The submission of small research grant (R03) applications is encouraged from institutions and organizations proposing projects leading to a better understanding of eligible proteins listed below.

Small research (R03) grants provide flexibility for initiating discrete, well-defined projects that realistically can be completed in one year and require only limited levels of funding. This program supports different types of projects including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Pilot or feasibility studies;
  • Small, self-contained research projects;
  • Development of research methodology; and/or
  • Development of assays to support compound screening projects;
  • Development of human cell or animal based models.

These awards will support generation of preliminary data and tools around eligible understudied protein(s) with the intent of elucidating the function of these proteins in the context of pain and obtaining sufficient preliminary data and/or research resources for subsequent grant applications and/or drug discovery projects. These grants are non-renewable.

This Funding Opportunity Announcement does not accept applications proposing clinical trial(s).

Objectives and Scope

The goal of this notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) is to provide a needed opportunity for the collection of preliminary data around the role of understudied proteins in the context of pain and pain management. This NOFO would provide funding to support research that will identify new targets for pain among the understudied proteins of the Druggable Proteome (DP). Many understudied proteins have been linked to pain or pain perception, acute and chronic pain. This indicates that there could be many more proteins within the DP that could serve as markers and/or drug targets for novel pain treatment and/or pain management.

It has been recognized through workshops and publications that understudied proteins become illuminated when (1) there are tools to study the protein (e.g., tools that modulate protein activity) and/or (2) there is biochemical, cellular, or animal model evidence of disease/physiological relevance. This NOFO was developed to address the need for expanded research and validation experiments on eligible understudied protein(s), with the intent of producing preliminary data to address the lack of biochemical, cellular, or animal model data associated with many understudied proteins. It is expected that the award will be used to obtain preliminary data and/or research resources for subsequent grant applications and/or drug discovery projects. These projects should be carried out in a short period of time with limited resources as defined by the funding mechanism.

Understudied proteins eligible for study under this NOFO are from well-established druggable protein families with a high potential to impact human health once a disease association is made. Proteins considered eligible for this funding opportunity have a Pubmed score of less than 10 (derived from text mining Pubmed extracts, this counts the number of publications that focus on a particular protein, and includes fractional counting of abstracts that mention multiple proteins [Pletscher-Frankild’s et al. 2015 and have minimal funded awards associated with their study.

For more information, please see the opportunity website.