NIH R01: HEAL Initiative: Understanding Individual Differences in Human Pain Conditions

Funding Opportunity Number: RFA-NS-24-021


This notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) from the NIH’s Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) Initiative aims to support research aimed at holistic understanding of inter-individual or between-person differences in human pain conditions, focusing on ‘Whole Person Health’ and enhancing pain treatment and management strategies . The goal of this NOFO is to support studies that focus on the collection of clinical and/or preclinical data to enable evidence-based modeling and understanding of inter-individual differences and/or heterogeneity of pain occurring with use of pain therapy/management, or with conditions such as a second pain condition, a comorbid health condition, a comorbid mental health condition, or conditions of use / misuse of opioids, alcohol or other substances. Development and implementation of novel, multidisciplinary research approaches, inclusion of different study populations, and inclusion of investigators with complementary expertise are highly encouraged to fulfill the project and program goals.

Research Objectives

This NOFO encourages investigators to pursue challenging research addressing inter-individual or between-person differences observed in pain perception, pain severity, NIH HEAL core pain domains, treatment effectiveness/responsiveness, and/or the impact of comorbidities, including a biopsychosocial context to conceptualize and study inter-individual differences in responses to pain and its treatment, focusing on ‘whole person health’. The core pain domains include: pain intensity, pain interference, physical functioning/quality of life, sleep, pain catastrophizing, depression, anxiety, global satisfaction with treatment and substance use screener. Details of these core pain domains and NIH HEAL pain core common data elements (CDE) can be found at Whole Person Health refers to looking at the whole person, not just separate organs or body systems, and considering multiple factors that promote either health or disease.

To be considered responsive to this NOFO, applications should focus on the collection of clinical and/or preclinical data to enable evidence-based modeling and understanding the biological mechanisms and/or psychosocial aspects of pain occurring with:

  1. Use of pain therapy/management, or
  2. A second pain condition, or
  3. A comorbid health condition, or
  4. A comorbid mental health condition, or
  5. Opioid use / misuse, or
  6. Alcohol use / misuse, or
  7. Substance use / misuse.

Proposed research studies should develop strategies, taking into consideration plans to:

  1. Generate data to stratify individuals with lived pain experience, based on pain conditions along with use of pain therapy/management and/or comorbidity (i.e., health or mental health condition, opioid use or misuse, alcohol use or misuse, or substance use or misuse).
  2. Utilize rigorously-collected clinical and/or preclinical data to create novel mathematical/statistical and/or computational models to identify and characterize inter-individual differences in people with lived pain experience.
  3. Utilize clinical and/or preclinical data and the generated/developed models to provide a better understanding of the biological underpinnings and mechanisms underlying inter-individual differences towards patient stratification.
  4. Create a plan to disseminate information on data and models, compliant with the HEAL Initiative Public Access and Data Sharing Policy, and consistent with the NIH Data Management and Sharing Policy”.

For more information, please see the opportunity webpage.