"My mission is to solve the problem of chronic pain for as many people as possible"

29 May 2020
Professor David Walsh looking at a x-ray.
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In September 2019 we announced that £24M of funding had been secured for an ambitious new research platform to improve our understanding of chronic pain and to pave the way for new treatments.

The Advanced Pain Discovery Platform (APDP) is a partnership between Versus Arthritis and UK Research and Innovation, which will bring together experts from many different areas of pain research. Together, they will look to transform our knowledge of the underlying causes of chronic pain. The first funding call for the APDP was launched today.

We’re delighted to announce that Professor David Walsh from the University of Nottingham has been appointed as the Director of the APDP. He brings a wealth of experience in pain research and a passion for putting patients at the centre of research.

We asked him to tell us a bit more about himself, his involvement with the initiative and how it will ultimately help those with chronic pain.

Tell us about yourself and your research background

I’m a Professor of Rheumatology at the University of Nottingham, and Honorary Consultant Rheumatologist at Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

I established and direct the Pain Centre Versus Arthritis, one of the charity’s Centres of Excellence. I also lead pain research within the NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre.

I worked with Versus Arthritis as a core member of their Pain Advisory Group to develop the Pain Roadmap (PDF, 1.62 MB), which I’m delighted to see lead to this APDP initiative.

Why is pain research so important?

Chronic pain is common and a massive burden, both to individuals and to society. People experience pain across different chronic illnesses, ethnic groups, sexes, and in all corners of society. Existing treatments can improve people’s quality of life, but only rarely eliminate chronic pain.

Pain has a huge impact on people’s lives: it’s one of the main reasons that people see their GP, it can prevent people from earning a living, and it makes relationships with family and friends difficult.

What does this new platform hope to achieve?

The APDP will bring together the UK’s technical, intellectual and personal resources to provide new opportunities for the treatment of pain. The initiative will encourage collaborative partnerships between universities and industry, between researchers and patients, and between policy makers and society.

The APDP will accelerate the development of treatments along the pipeline from novel ideas through to real patient benefit.

It will grasp opportunities across different chronic pain conditions, so that people with chronic pain could benefit from treatments first thought of for another illness.

How will this initiative benefit people with arthritis?

Pain is the most difficult problem for many people with arthritis. The APDP will make step changes in the understanding and treatment of chronic pain.

It will bring together existing knowledge, expertise and resources across arthritis and other painful chronic illnesses in order to reveal common links and novel avenues that lead to new and better treatments for arthritis pain.

The initiative will also raise the profile of chronic pain in the mind of the public, policy makers and government, building momentum to tackle pain and improve people’s quality of life.

We will enable people with arthritis to contribute to society in ways that might currently seem impossible.

Why did you want to get involved with the Advanced Pain Discovery Platform?

My mission is to solve the problem of chronic pain for as many people as possible. There have been major leaps forward during the past 10 years in our understanding of why chronic pain exists, and how it is driven by complex links between what’s happening in the body, in the brain and spinal cord.

World class researchers across the UK, both in universities and in the pharmaceutical industry, have been tackling chronic pain from joints, headache, from damaged nerves or in cancer, and our research at the Pain Centre Versus Arthritis has contributed to a better understanding of arthritis pain.

Everybody’s pain is different, and people with chronic pain typically experience several different kinds of pain. However, the mechanisms which cause chronic pain are often shared between very different diseases.

The time is ripe to bring the UK’s expertise together to find solutions that hit pain where it hurts, and I’m committed to making that happen through the APDP.

What is your role in the APDP?

As APDP Programme Director, I’ll encourage big ideas that can ultimately transform the lives of people already living with pain, and prevent more people from experiencing a life of pain in the future.

I’ll champion pain research and build relationships between key leaders, in the UK and internationally, from across clinical and research organisations, government, industry, charities, and the public. And importantly, I’ll enable people living with chronic pain to become an active part of its solution.

Read more about our research

We’ll keep you posted on progress and updates, find out more about our research.