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Advanced Pain Discovery Platform (APDP)

Chronic pain is a major unmet global public health challenge and a significant priority not only for people living with primary chronic pain conditions which cause significant disability, such as fibromyalgia, back pain and headaches/migraines, but also for people living with long-term conditions including arthritis, cancer, diabetes and  dementia, as well as for their families and carers. To help address this challenge, a multidisciplinary approach is needed that will lead to a better understanding of mechanisms of pain and improved treatments that will ultimately improve the lives of people living with pain conditions and their families.

The Advanced Pain Discovery Platform (APDP)

The Advanced Pain Discovery Platform (APDP) is a 5 year, £24M initiative funded through the Government’s Strategic Priorities Fund and delivered in partnership through MRC, ESRC, BBSRC, Versus Arthritis and Eli Lilly.

The APDP aims  to deliver a consortium- based platform of national scale, generating discovery and early translational science that will break through the complexity of pain and reveal new treatment approaches to address a wide spectrum of chronic and debilitating clinical conditions. The APDP will provide new knowledge about the significant variation and unpredictability that exists in the lived experience of pain and uncover shared mechanisms, breaking down inconsistencies in diagnosis and treatment, providing new pain biomarkers and identify and validate new therapeutic interventions.

The APDP is being delivered through four interlinked activities:

The 4 Phase Project Approach to the Advanced Pain Discovery Platform: Consortia set-up and data generation; Mapping pain complexity and uncovering the molecular and cellular basis of pain; Bioinformatics, artificial intelligence and machine learning: building a network level data library; Online open data platform
  • Multidisciplinary consortia
    Multidisciplinary consortia will be established that will link together researchers across the breadth of biomedical, social, informatics and data sciences. This will build the foundation of a national-scale programme supporting discovery and translational science that will bring together leadership, tools and resources to help unravel the complexity of pain, driving new treatment development.
  • Online open data platform
    An online open access data platform will be established to provide a key resource for the national and international pain communities.
  • Mapping pain complexity and uncovering the molecular & cellular basis of pain
    We will expand the capabilities established through the consortia by supporting additional research programmes aimed at generating critical new knowledge in mapping the complexity of pain.
  • Bioinformatics, AI and machine learning
    Bioinformatics, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning will be used to create a comprehensive cellular, systems and network library for chronic pain.

APDP Partners

Advanced Pain Discovery Platform

Calls for funding
Engagement Activities
Frequently Asked Questions
Contact the APDP Team
Useful links


Programme Director

Professor David Walsh
Professor David Walsh

Professor David Walsh 

As Director of the Advanced Pain Discovery Platform, Professor Walsh will drive its successful implementation and integration into the wider landscape through collaborative approaches and execution of the strategy, maximising the portfolios’ overall research excellence and real-world impact.

MRC Director Announcement

APDP’s partner, Versus Arthritis, recently released a blog which focusses on the APDP programme and its Director, Professor David Walsh. Please visit the Versus Arthritis website to read the interview.

If you would like to contact Professor Walsh in regards to the APDP please email David Walsh.

Executive Board

The Executive Board has responsibility for directing the ADPD programme, and is comprised of members from the funding partners. The Executive Board ensures the efficient delivery and monitoring of the APDP progress.

International Scientific Advisory Board (ISAB)

The APDP International Scientific Advisory Board support the Executive Board by providing expert insight. Our expert board members augment the knowledge, understanding and strategic thinking of the Executive Board and Programme Team.

ISAB Members

Professor Andrew Carr

University of Oxford

Dr Andrew Roddam

Early Disease Detection Research Project UK Ltd

Professor Bridget Lumb

University of Bristol

Colin Wilkinson

Patient Representative

Professor Francis Keefe

Duke University

Jenny Camaradou

Patient Representative

Professor Lars Arendt – Nielsen

Aalborg University

Professor Lesley Colvin

University of Dundee

Professor Maria Fitzgerald

University College London

Calls for funding

Investments will be made through calls for funding, all opportunities will be announced on the MRC website.

Calls Planned

May 2020

Consortia Expression of Interest Call - Now closed

To download a proforma of the EOI form please click here. To complete and submit your EOI application please click here.

September 2020

Consortia Full Application Call (invite only) – Invite only

Expert Review Panel – Consortia call

  • Professor Iain McNeish, Imperial College London
  • Professor Luke O’Neill, Trinity College Dublin
  • Professor Clifford Woolf, Harvard Medical School                     
  • Dr. Zahid Ali, UCB                                    
  • Professor Jason McDougall, Dalhousie University
  • Professor Thomas Graven-Nielsen, Aalborg University
  • Professor Anne-Marie Malfait, Rush University
  • Professor John T Farrar, University of Pennsylvania  
  • Professor Luda Diatchenko, McGill University
  • Professor Susmita Kashikar-Zuck, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center
  • Professor Michael Nicholas, University of Sydney
  • Amanda Clark, Versus Arthritis Patient Insight Partner
  • Debra Dulake, Versus Arthritis Patient Insight Partner
  • E. J. Taylor, Versus Arthritis Patient Insight Partner
  • Oonagh Diamond, Versus Arthritis Patient Insight Partner
  • Lucy Youdale, Patient Reviewer
  • Kimberlee Cole, Patient Reviewer

December 2020

SPF Advanced Pain Discovery Platform – Pain Research Data Hub – Future Call

    Engagement Activities

    Throughout the programme there will be a number of workshops and webinars to share information about the programme, bring the community together and support calls for funding.

    Engagement activities will be open to all those interested in attending, including academic researchers, third sector organisations, industry, patients and the public, unless otherwise stated.

    Slides and/or videos from these events will added here once they have taken place.

    If you would like to be kept informed about these events, please email SPFPain@MRC.UKRI.org.

    November 2020 - MRC Research Data Hubs: SPF Advanced Pain Discovery Platform Programme and Mental Health

    This webinar provides you with background information regarding the two initiatives and, the aims of their accompanying Research Data Hubs. The speakers also share the draft specification for each Hub, details of the accompanying survey (which is focused on aspects of the specification) and what MRC hope to achieve through your engagement in this consultation phase.

    The hour-long session includes Q&A session and following talks from:

    • Jo Latimer - Head of Neuroscience & Mental Health, MRC
    • Stephen Simpson - Director of Research, Versus Arthritis
    • Karen Brakspear - Head of Programme: Mental Health, MRC
    • Ben Gordon - Executive Director: Hubs and Data Improvement, HDRUK.

    The APDP are seeking your feedback…

    The second phase of the Advanced Pain Discovery Platform sees the launch of a call to establish a Pain Research Data Hub that will be embedded within the broader infrastructure and network of Health Data Research UK. The aim is to establish the Data Hub as a platform that will bring together, and provide open access to, all data and results from across the APDP investments, including the large consortia and research programmes. This will provide a key national resource for the pain research community to tackle the long-term research challenges in understanding the complexity and unpredictability of pain and reveal new and improved treatments across diverse chronic and debilitating pain conditions. The Hub will facilitate working across different types of data (molecular, cellular, phenotypic, health data etc) and will support industry partnerships, thereby helping to drive translation to health improvements.

    How you can you help…

    Complete the MRC Data Hubs Survey

    Over the coming weeks we are seeking to further capture the needs of the user community for data infrastructure to order to finalise the call specification. As part of this consultation we have launched a survey where you can provide us with your feedback. It should take no more than 15 min to complete. The survey will close on 25 November 2020, 16:00.  

    Attend the MRC Data Hubs Webinar

    2November 2020, 13:00-14:00

    Through this webinar we seek to provide you with background information regarding the initiative and the aims of the Research Data Hubs. We would also like to share with you the draft specification for each Hub, details of the accompanying survey (which is focused on aspects of the specification) and what we hope to achieve through your engagement in this consultation phase. Please register to attend this webinar.   

    June 2020 - APDP Introductory Webinar

    If you would like a transcript of the above video please contact us.

    Webinar Slides

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Additional information

    We would encourage all medical questions to be directed to your GP. Versus Arthritis have got information about support for those living with chronic pain, which can be found at www.versusarthritis.org.

    Contact the APDP Team

    For any queries or if you would like to be added to the APDP mailing list, please contact SPFPain@MRC.UKRI.org.

    Useful links