Opioid Innovation Fund

"Just the kind of creative approach we need"

Top Opioid Innovation Fund proposals win praise of NIH director

Pictured above: Ohio State researchers join National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins and Dean of the College of Public Health William Martin after the winning proposals in the Opioid Innovation Fund were announced at the James Cancer Hospital. From left to right: Julianna Nemeth, Rachel Ramirez, Susan Yoon, Henry Xiang, Julie Teater, Ayaz Hyder, Kelly George, Helena Rempala, Lauren Southerland, NIH Director Francis Collins, Thomas Huber, Ashley Dundon, JaNelle Ricks, Kathryn Lancaster, Sherri Kovach, Cecilia Mengo and Dean William Martin

When Ohio State created the Opioid Innovation Fund last year, the call to action for university researchers and their community partners was clear: to devise new, evidence-based approaches to the crisis that could be implemented at scale in Ohio and around the nation.

The first results of the challenge are in. Dr. William Martin, dean of the College of Public Health, announced the eight winning proposals at the James Cancer Hospital on March 22 at a ceremony attended by the director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins.

“This is a moment to not only celebrate the awardees,” Martin said, “but to underscore the breadth of the opportunity, and the breadth of a land-grant university to solve the problems with the communities that we serve.”

The projects include:

  • A mapping system that uses data from the 22 emergency medical systems in Franklin County to track and monitor, on a daily basis, changes in overdose rates and calls. The project would give multiple community stakeholders the ability to share their data in a timely manner to identify localized hotspots.
  • A program to begin medication-assisted treatment (e.g., methadone and buprenorphine) in the hospital for patients who exhibit an opioid-use problem, and to ensure immediate continued medication-assisted treatment in the community. Research suggests the approach could reduce subsequent opioid abuse and decrease the need for patients to enter a treatment facility.
  • A model to identify best practices of integrated, uninterrupted care — from emergency medical services to long-term care programs — to improve recovery for patients suffering from opioid use disorder. Currently, patients are often left to navigate a complex, disjointed web of resources on their own both before and after relapse.
  • A pain management system that uses virtual reality games, instead of opioid medications, to distract adult burn patients while their dressing is changed. 
  • A community engagement program to assess the needs of residential treatment programs that care for survivors of domestic violence, many of whom struggle with opioid addiction.
  • A pilot study to determine whether neurofeedback reduces opioid cravings, improves functioning, decreases relapse, and improves mental health in adults being treated with medications such as naltrexone and buprenorphine.
  • A feasibility study to investigate the effect of therapy dogs on children who have been abused and neglected because of parental opioid use.
  • A campaign in the community and on social media to educate central Ohioans about using naloxone to reverse an overdose; recognizing and responding to an overdose; and accessing medical and community-based training and other resources. 

“It’s a wonderful variety of approaches that I think are going to make real progress in this issue,” Collins said. “And that’s just the kind of creative approach by institutions and individuals that we need.”

I’m very impressed and gratified to see the kind of creativity, energy, and resources that are being put into this.

-Dr. Francis Collins, Director, National Institutes of Health

The NIH is the largest supporter of biomedical research in the world and provided more than $170 million in funding for Ohio State in 2017.

Collins’ visit came a day after lawmakers in Congress unveiled a spending bill that includes an additional $500 million for new opioid research by the NIH, money he says will be used to inspire investigators all over the country to come forward with their best ideas.

“I’ve just spent the last couple of hours meeting with some of the researchers here who are tackling this problem from a variety of different directions,” he said, referring to a roundtable discussion earlier in the day. “I’m very impressed and gratified to see the kind of creativity, energy, and resources that are being put into this.”

Executive Vice President and Provost Bruce A. McPheron announced the creation of the $1.35 million Opioid Innovation Fund in October. Interdisciplinary teams of faculty and staff were encouraged to leverage existing public and private partnerships, particularly with community organizations such as local faith-based groups and non-profits, governmental agencies, libraries and businesses. The criteria imposed few restrictions on the use of funds but did emphasize the need for sustainable programs that could be quickly implemented and thoroughly evaluated as they grew.

Of 89 pre-proposals submitted, 32 were recommended for final submission after peer review. A panel of independent evaluators determined the final ranking among the 28 proposals that were ultimately submitted. The eight teams will share grants totaling nearly $500,000. A second round of funding is planned for late fall.

“It is in our interest to build an infrastructure that supports everyone at Ohio State who wants to move forward with programs or new research efforts that will address the opioid crisis,” Martin said. “That is our shared responsibility. And I can assure you that in my remaining days at Ohio State, this is going to be an extremely high priority.”

For several years, Ohio State has been addressing the opioid crisis through multiple channels, including the Wexner Medical Center, Ohio State Extension, and programs in many of the colleges, an approach Martin says reflects the exceptional interdisciplinary strength of Ohio State as a land-grant university.

A PDF summarizing the eight winning proposals is available to download here.

Written by Tom Rinderle, Office of Academic Affairs

Frequently Asked Questions

We anticipate that a second round of applications for OIF support will be due in fall 2018. Details will be posted here, on the Opioid Innovation Fund webpage, as they become available. Look for announcements in OnCampus and other university news outlets as we get closer to the date.

Eighty-nine pre-proposals were submitted, and 32 were recommended for final submission. Twenty-eight were ultimately submitted. From this group, two proposals were chosen for implementation grants of up to $100,000, and six for planning grants of up to $50,000.

A panel of several independent reviewers evaluated and ranked the proposals. The review followed the traditional NIH review format and used the 1-9 scale of ranking.

All of the submissions reflected innovative ideas, but the selected proposals were notable because they addressed an important need related to the opioid crisis and offered a clear plan for evaluation of the project and its potential for broader implementation.

We are dedicated to helping develop the many innovative ideas that were not funded in the first round. The OIF Grant Support Team will be hosting a grant development workshop prior to the next submission deadline. Please watch the OIF webpage and OnCampus for dates.

Yes!  The principal investigators on each grant will be receiving reviewer feedback via email.

Contact the Opioid Innovation Fund at CPH-OIFGrants@osu.edu.