R.I. Hospital receives $11.8M federal grant to establish opioid research center

PROVIDENCE – Rhode Island Hospital has received an $11.8 million federal grant to address the opioid epidemic by establishing the Center of Biomedical Research Excellence on Opioids and Overdose at the hospital, Lifespan announced Thursday.

The center will be led by principal investigator Dr. Josiah Rich and Traci Green, who are both affiliated with Rhode Island Hospital.

“There is a tremendous need for greater scientific understanding of the mechanisms underpinning opioid use disorder and a need for more effective interventions to treat and prevent opioid misuse and overdose,” said Rich in a statement. “This center will bring together experts from institutions across Rhode Island to support excellence in the research needed to combat the opioid epidemic hampering and taking the lives of our friends and neighbors.”

The COBRE funding is a five-year, Phase I grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences and will work in partnership with Brown University and Women & Infants Hospital.

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As part of the COBRE program, the center will be eligible for a total of 15 years of federal support in three phases. The purpose COBRE grants is to pair experienced researchers with junior investigators, with the evenuality that they subsequently apply for and gain independent funding.

In addition to the grant, Rhode Island Hospital will fund 15 junior investigators through a $600,000 pilot program.

“Rhode Island continues to be a national leader in innovative approaches to addressing opioid use disorder,” said Green. “The unique political and public health climate that has been cultivated over decades of collaboration among members of this research team, community partners and key stakeholders makes Rhode Island an ideal location to establish the COBRE on Opioids and Overdose.”

The hospital said that three research projects by three early-career project leaders had already been identified for the center:

  • “Informed opioid prescribing for acute musculoskeletal pain after motor vehicle collision” – Dr. Francesca Beaudoin, Rhode Island Hospital
  • “Contingency Management in Combination with MAT for Opioid Use Disorders” – Sara Becker, Brown University School of Public Health
  • “Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome: Fetus to First Years” – Adam Czynski, Women & Infants Hospital

“We still have a lot to learn about how to prevent and treat opioid addiction,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse in a statement. “That’s why medical research is a huge part of the battle against the opioid crisis, and why I’ve been fighting to unlock research funding like this for Rhode Island. This new center will help outstanding researchers at Rhode Island Hospital and other Rhode Island institutions expand work to answer tough questions about opioid addiction. It’s an important victory for those confronting addiction or walking the difficult, noble path of recovery.”

Chris Bergenheim is the PBN web editor. He can be reached at Bergenheim@PBN.com.