Research Concepts

A Research Concept describes the basic purpose, scope, and objectives of a potential solicitation of grants or contracts. Current concepts under development are listed below to alert researchers to areas of NIH HEAL Initiative research interest and to give researchers maximal lead time to plan projects. Past concepts that have converted to funding opportunities (NOFOs) can be found at the bottom of the page. Please note that not every concept will lead to a NOFO. The NIH HEAL Initiative bases this determination on scientific and programmatic priorities and the availability of funds, and a NOFO may also differ in certain details from its originating concept. Please visit this page often for updates, subscribe to the HEAL Digest for updates, and view current (open) and past (closed) HEAL NOFOs.

Research Concepts on this page:

Translation of Research to Practice for the Treatment of Opioid Addiction

American Indian and Alaska Native Collective Research Effort to Enhance Wellness: Addressing Opioid/Drug Misuse and Overdose, Mental Health, and Pain

This concept will support Tribes and American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) serving organizations and communities to respond to the opioid/drug overdose crisis by establishing or expanding research infrastructure and capacity for Tribal research entities to conduct research related to all facets of the opioid/overdose crisis, including substance misuse, mental health related factors, and the management of pain. It will address data insufficiencies by providing support to improve data and surveillance of factors that contribute to the opioid/drug overdose crisis at the local level (including local data and connections to state, regional and national data). Increasing research capacity will include supporting the conduct of Tribally or community prioritized research. The concept will fund technical assistance and provide support for the development of any needed partnerships to achieve all program goals. A Tribal Consultation informed the development of this concept. HEAL Tribal Consultation Report

Contact: Kathy Etz

Workforce Interventions to Improve Addiction Care Quality and Patient Outcome

This concept aims to design and test workforce interventions that could lead to improved care quality and patient outcomes. It will support research to better understand dynamics that influence workforce recruitment, training, performance, and retention – an important aim since the demand for addiction counselors could dramatically exceed supply by approximately 38% in 2030, a shortage of nearly 35,000 workers.

Contacts: Tisha Wiley, Wendy Weber

Career Development Awards in Addiction Implementation Science

This concept will provide an opportunity for early career scientists or early career clinicians with foundational backgrounds in addiction to develop expertise in implementation science, including conducting a research project incorporating at least one of the four priority domains of the HHS Overdose Prevention Strategy: primary prevention (including appropriate opioid prescribing), opioid use disorder treatment, harm reduction, and recovery support services. This research aims to build a cadre of implementation researchers who can contribute to addressing the current overdose crisis, develop research careers that will impact the quality of clinical practice generally, and become the next generation of implementation experts and mentors.

Contacts: Tisha Wiley, Wendy Weber

Research to Foster an Opioid Use Disorder Treatment System Patients Can Count On

This concept will leverage existing quality measurement efforts to advance the field of addiction science to help patients, families, and payers identify effective providers and promote improvements in patient outcomes. This research will support research centers consisting of partnerships between researchers and payors, health plans, single state agencies/opioid treatment authorities, professional organizations, or other entities who can deploy a quality measurement and management system to inform provider or clinician selection and treatment improvement.

Contacts: Tisha Wiley, Wendy Weber

Addressing Exposure to Violence and Trauma in the Context of Substance Use Disorder Treatment and Recovery Services

This concept aims to address exposure to violence and related trauma among individuals with substance use disorders, for whom integrated services are lacking. This research will adapt the Optimizing Care for People with Opioid Use Disorder and Mental Health Conditions research approach that tests the adaptation, effectiveness, adoption, scalability, and sustainability of collaborative care to include exposure to violence and trauma – as well as extend the focus of research beyond primary care settings to include recovery and substance use disorder treatment settings.

Contacts: Tisha Wiley, Wendy Weber

New Strategies to Prevent and Treat Opioid Addiction

Sleep and Circadian Predictors of Opioid Use Disorder Treatment Response and Outcomes

This concept proposes a data science approach to evaluate and integrate sleep- and circadian-based behavioral, physiological, and molecular phenotypes predictive of opioid use disorder treatment outcomes. The goal is to produce a predictive model of opioid use disorder outcomes based on sleep and circadian indicators that helps to identify potential intervention targets to prevent relapse and enhance the effectiveness of opioid use disorder treatment.

Contacts: Geetha Subramaniam, Alex Talkovsky

Evidence Based Prevention Interventions in Community Health Centers

This concept aims to develop and test strategies for providing improved access to preventative intervention services for patients served by community health centers (CHCs). These locations are well positioned to serve as a formal point of entry into evidence-based opioid misuse prevention services because they reach large numbers of people affected by the opioid crisis and are situated across the nation in low-resourced areas. The research will focus on primary prevention strategies for opioid misuse as well as enhance risk screening processes in CHCs.

Contacts: Geetha Subramaniam, Alex Talkovsky

Enhanced Outcomes for Infants and Children Exposed to Opioids

Neonatal and Infant Imaging and Placenta Function            

This concept addresses the need to understand how opioid exposure, alone or in combination with other substances (e.g., alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana), during pregnancy can influence placental function and brain development. Brain development during the fetal, neonatal, and infancy periods is highly plastic and susceptible to environmental influences, including maternal substance use, nutrition, and environmental adversity. Despite longstanding knowledge that the placenta is a critical organ in fetal development, there is limited knowledge about how opioid use by pregnant women affects placental function to influence and alter fetal brain development.

Contacts: Michelle Freund, Drew Bremer

Remote Assessments

This concept will build upon the pandemic-invoked deployment and acceptance of remote technology interactions, with the goal of transitioning data collection thoughtfully and systematically out of traditional lab-based settings into homes. This research aims to enhance inclusion of study populations by expanding its representativeness and lowering the burden of families to participate in clinical neuroscience research studies. It will establish validated ways to virtually measure sociocultural, biobehavioral, and environmental factors, such as substance use exposures.

Contacts: Michelle Freund, Drew Bremer

Novel Therapeutic Options for Opioid Use Disorder and Overdose

Therapeutics Development for Comorbid Opioid Use Disorder and Stress-Related Mental Disorders

This concept will broaden the scope of addiction treatment development, integrating stress-related psychiatric comorbidities and substance use disorders together into therapeutics development. Stress is common in people who develop substance use disorders and stress-related mental disorders, such as depression and anxiety, including post-traumatic stress disorder. These stress-related comorbidities are not currently integrated into the therapeutics clinical development path. This research will assess standalone treatment options as well as combinations of a pharmacotherapy and neuromodulation, toward meeting the needs of complex patient populations.

Contacts: Ivan Montoya, Kentner Singleton

Oral Complications Arising from Oral Buprenorphine Use

This concept will support basic science research to understand the oral cavity biochemical environment during oral buprenorphine use. This research also aims to elucidate the role of microbial flora and salivary proteins in the development and progression of reported oral complications to buprenorphine. There is limited scientific literature to describe oral complications of buprenorphine use, and different etiologies may contribute to these reported problems.

Contacts: Ivan Montoya, Kentner Singleton

Addressing the Public Health Impact of New and Emerging Opioid Threats             

This concept aims to address the urgent need to understand emerging opioid threats, including toxicology of these new substances. The research aims to enlist the help of toxicologists, medical examiners, and biomedical assay developers, in addition to pharmacologists, emergency department physicians, and addiction specialists. This research aims to provide rapidly delivered, actionable information for public health professionals and policy makers about the dangers of new threats and their impact on opioid addiction and overdose treatments, as well as on resulting illness and death.

Contacts: Linda Porter, Jane Atkinson