NIH Releases Strategic Plan for Data Science; NIH Moves Ahead with HEAL Initiative

Summary provided by Federal Science Partners.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has released its Strategic Plan for Data Science to capitalize on the opportunities presented by advances in data science.  The plan describes NIH’s overarching goals, strategic objectives, and implementation tactics for promoting the modernization of the NIH-funded biomedical data science ecosystem. Over the course of the next year, NIH will begin implementing its strategy, with some elements of the plan already underway. NIH will continue to seek community input during the implementation phase.

NIH Moves Ahead with HEAL Initiative – NIH has announced the launch of the HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-term) Initiative, an aggressive, trans-agency effort to speed scientific solutions to stem the national opioid public health crisis. Toward this effort, NIH is nearly doubling funding for research on opioid misuse/addiction and pain from approximately $600 million in fiscal year 2016 to $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2018, made possible from a funding boost by Congress. NIH’s efforts contribute to a government-wide push to meet the President’s goal of ending the opioid crisis.  HEAL will bolster research across the NIH to:
·       Launch a longitudinal study to follow patients 1) after acute onset of musculoskeletal pain and 2) after surgery to identify biomarkers that might predict which individuals are more likely to transition from acute to chronic pain.
·       Leverage innovative imaging and -omics neurotechnologies developed through the NIH BRAIN Initiative and SPARC program to identify 1) potential new targets for treatment of chronic pain and 2) objective biomarkers to predict which individuals will respond to a treatment.
·       Pursue public-private partnerships to develop new non-addictive pain medicines by sharing data on past and present research projects, and matching researchers with a selection of potentially promising but abandoned pharmaceutical industry compounds to explore their effectiveness for the treatment of pain.
·       Build a clinical trials network that will allow multiple new and repurposed compounds to be tested simultaneously for effectiveness.  This allows ineffective compounds to be weeded out and new compounds to enter trials more swiftly.  The combination of testing compounds that already have received large investments and passed safety testing, and a flexible clinical trials network will significantly accelerate the development of effective therapies.
·       Working with federal and state partners, pilot demonstration projects to test the integration of multiple addiction prevention and treatment options in healthcare and criminal justice settings in states with the highest rates of opioid misuse and overdose to inform evidence-based practice.  Despite multiple effective prevention and treatment approaches, the majority of the 2 million Americans with opioid use disorder do not receive appropriate or adequate treatment for their addiction.
The Initiative will tap into the expertise of the NIH Pain Consortium, which was established to enhance collaboration among NIH institutes, centers and offices that conduct pain research.