How will our research help people living with chronic pain?

27 May 2021

The pain of arthritis robs people of many of the things that make life worth living. Simple movements like walking, sitting and standing can be agony. We know that investment into pain research doesn’t match the impact and that a better understanding of pain and new solutions are needed to treat pain.

We want to lead change so that ultimately pain no longer limits the lives of people with arthritis.

Our commitment to pain research

Two years ago, we announced the biggest single investment in pain research in the UK and our largest single commitment to research ever.

After years of hard work, we committed £12 million of funding along with £12 million of matched funding from government and £0.5 million investment from an industrial partner to improve understanding and lay the foundations for better treatments for the millions of people who live with chronic pain.

The joint £24.5 million fund formed a 5-year partnership between Versus Arthritis, UK Research and Innovation, Health Data Research UK and Eli Lilly, to generate a research platform, known as the Advanced Pain Discovery Platform (APDP), which brings together experts from biological, psychosocial and cognitive pain research fields.

The projects we are funding

We’re delighted to announce that the first set of funding has gone to four groups of researchers who will form the core of this platform. Their projects will be guided by people with lived experience of chronic pain through patient representatives who are partnered to each project.

  • PAINSTORM, led by Professor David Bennett, University of Oxford, who will be researching neuropathic pain, which is caused by damage to the sensory nervous system through conditions such as diabetes, chemotherapy and HIV. This study will include comparative groups of people with musculoskeletal conditions, including low back pain and vasculitis, both of which feature neuropathic pain components.
  • Consortium Against Pain in Equality (CAPE), led by Professor Tim Hales, University of Dundee, who will be researching the impact of unfavourable childhood experiences on chronic pain and responses to treatment. This research project will include looking at groups of people living with painful musculoskeletal conditions.
  • ADVANTAGE, led by Professor Christopher (Geoff) Woods, University of Cambridge, who will be researching how we treat people with visceral pain, meaning pain starting in internal organs, this phenomenon is seen in conditions such as endometriosis, colitis and kidney disease.
  • Psychosocial mechanisms of chronic pain, led by Professor Edmund Keogh, University of Bath, who will be researching how psychological and social factors, such as thoughts and feelings, personal relationships, and lifestyle, can also affect chronic pain in musculoskeletal conditions and other painful conditions.

Alongside these projects we’ve also awarded funding as part of this investment to Professor Emily Jefferson at the University of Dundee to develop a data hub for pain research.  This is supported in collaboration with Health Data Research UK: Alleviate hub. The APDP Pain research data hub will be a national resource through which data from a large number of pain studies can be accessed, including all of the APDP projects.

Congratulations to all the successful awardees

Neha Issar-Brown, director of research at Versus Arthritis said: "It's with great pleasure that today we're able to announce the first awards as part of our ambitious, multimillion pound research partnership into chronic pain as part of the Advanced Pain Discovery Platform (APDP). This platform will bring together world class experts in pain research from across the UK and beyond to improve our understanding of what causes pain and lay the foundations for better and more innovative treatments.

We know that millions of people live in chronic pain every day, a vast majority of whom have musculoskeletal conditions such as arthritis. I'm confident that through this initiative, research will lead the way in transforming the lives of people affected by chronic pain.

We look forward to bringing you updates and impacts from these projects in the future.

What could this mean for future treatments?

Chronic pain is very common, and the impact on people’s lives and society is huge. We currently don’t understand why this type of pain develops, and therefore how is best to treat it.

The projects funded through our partnership will improve understanding of what causes chronic pain.

They span a large spectrum of pain research, from understanding how what happens in childhood could change experiences and responses to treatment, to understanding how and why pain develops in the first place.

All the knowledge generated through these projects will accelerate us towards the development of new and better treatments for chronic pain, and a better future for people living with these painful conditions.

How to get involved in our research

We need research to help us find out more about what causes bone and joint problems. We will shortly be launching new and exciting opportunities to get involved in our research. For more information, or to find out how you can become involved, please email:

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