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Europain consortium receives EU and industry funding and begins five year research into better treatments for chronic pain Europain, a public-private consortium funded by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), announced today the launch of a five-year research project to understand and improve treatment of chronic pain. The project will receive 6M€ from the IMI as well as 12.5M€ in kind contribution from the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) over the coming five years.

One in five adults suffers from chronic pain. This constitutes a major cause of long-term sick leave and forced early retirement, placing a great financial burden on both individuals and healthcare systems. Despite extensive research programmes by biopharmaceutical companies and academia, there remains a need for treatments that are more effective and with fewer side-effects.

Europain has established an international team of leading researchers and clinicians from both academia and industry to undertake multidisciplinary translational research. This team aims to increase the understanding of chronic pain mechanisms, help to develop novel analgesics, and develop better biomarkers for pain. Their ultimate goal is to improve the lives of people suffering from chronic pain.

During the five-year project, Europain will undertake a large number of preclinical and clinical studies. The program will be delivered through collaboration between laboratories in the Europain network, sharing resources to improve the value derived from the budget. Results will be made public during and after the project, ensuring that the knowledge created can be widely applied to the development of better therapies for patients suffering from chronic pain.

King’s College London, the managing entity of Europain and the academic lead institution will contribute to both the pre-clinical and clinical aspects of the project. One role will be to study the expression of potential pain mediators in both animal models of pain and samples from patients suffering from chronic pain. The role of novel pain mediators will then be investigated using an array of techniques ranging from cell culture to quantitative sensory testing in humans.

Professor Steve McMahon, who along with Dr Dave Bennett will be running the project at King’s, comments: ‘There are some big questions facing the pain field at the moment and this consortium, drawing on the skills and expertise of both academia and industry, is in a unique position to address them’.

The consortium network involves scientists representing 12 renowned European Universities: King’s College London (Academic lead), University College London, Imperial College London, the University of Oxford, the Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel, the Medical Faculty Mannheim/Heidelberg University, the Technische Universität München, the Goethe University of Frankfurt, the BG University Hospital Bergmannsheil/Ruhr University Bochum, the University Hospitals of Aarhus, Rigshospitalet Copenhagen, University of Southern Denmark, the SME Neuroscience Technologies from Barcelona, and the research resources and expertise of Europe’s most active pharmaceutical companies working in the field of analgesics, including AstraZeneca (co-ordinator), Boehringer-Ingelheim, Eli Lilly, Esteve, Pfizer, Sanofi-Aventis, UCB Pharma.

About the Innovative Medicines Initiative

IMI is a unique Public-Private Partnership (PPP) between the pharmaceutical industry represented by the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) and the European Union represented by the European Commission.
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Ph.D. Positions
Examples for typical rotation projects undertaken in previous years
Rotation 1
McMahon: Acid-induced pain and its modulation in humans
Hunt: Morphine tolerance in the NK1 knockout mouse
Wood: Construction of a loxP vector to be used in sodium channel beta3 subunit knock out
Wood: DRG cell phenotype and numbers in the conditional BDNF knockout
Koltzenburg: Excitability testing of peripheral nerves in vitro
McMahon: Characterisation of analgesic efficacy in a model of UVB-induced inflammation of the skin

Rotation 2
Rice: Behavioural models of gp120-associated pain
McMahon: Spinal cord mRNA expression levels and patterns following intrathecal NGF
Dickenson: Investigating the role of the NMDA receptor in lamina I neurones under neuropathy
Fitzgerald: Whole cell patch recording of identified lamina I cells in neonatal rat spinal cord slices
Dickenson: Long term potentiation in the dorsal horn
Orengo: Microarray analysis of spinal cord genes following a spared nerve injury

Rotation 3

Fitzgerald: Expression of Eph-A receptors in Neonatal DRG
Orengo: Microarray gene analysis of rat DRG in the spinal nerve ligation model of neuropathic pain
Koltzenburg: Assessment of amplifying RNA for microarray expression profiling
McMahon: Human psychophysical testing of UV burns
Hunt: Gene chip analysis of dorsal horn LTP
Dickenson: Cancer-induced bone pain; an in vivo electrophysiology study

Structure of the First Year of the 4 Year PhD

The first year has 3 main components, compulsory courses, optional courses and (occupying most of the time) three 3 month laboratory placements spent doing research and learning techniques.

Compulsory Courses

These consist of:

An Induction course introducing you to the College
A course on Current Techniques in Neuroscience
A Topics in Neuroscience course, structured like a journal club in which you present research papers
A Statistics course
A course on Library and Database Usage
An Electronics course
A course on the Ethics of Animal Experimentation
A Science Communication course (may also be taken in the 2nd year)

Optional Courses
These consist of:

Computing Courses on E-mail, Word Processing, Internet, Spreadsheets, Powerpoint, Visual Basic, and more advanced programming
A Mechanical Workshop course
A Further Statistics course
A Radiation Safety course
Orientation for Foreigners
English for Foreigners

The Laboratory Placements

Three of these are done, chosen from labs working in the broad areas of Molecular Neuroscience, Cellular Neuroscience, and Systems and Imaging Neuroscience. Students must choose 3 placements covering at least 2 of these broad areas (in order to avoid over-specialization in the first year). For example, students might do a placement in one lab which they think they might want to do their PhD research in, one in a similar lab for comparison, and one in a lab studying something quite different to gain experience in another area. Students doing these placements often publish papers on their work, or present it at scientific meetings.