About us

  • Chronic pain is a major unmet global public health challenge.

    It affects around 1 in 5 people, and causes more disability than any other condition, anywhere in the world.  Causes of chronic pain include arthritis, other musculoskeletal disorders, cancer, fibromyalgia and migraines, but there are numerous other triggers, and often an underlying diagnosis cannot be found. Chronic pain has a detrimental impact on an individual’s overall health, quality of life, ability to function and work, family life and even wider society. Chronic pain often occurs alongside other debilitating health conditions, such as depression, diabetes, and/or heart disease, increasing the negative impact on those affected. Research into causes and management is a priority for people living with pain, as well as their families, carers, and the communities they live in.

    To help address this challenge and improve the lives of people affected by pain conditions, a better understanding of the mechanisms of pain and improved treatments are needed. Many research cohorts exist across the UK containing relevant pain-related data, but previously there has been no national approach to co-ordinating and managing these data.  This has resulted in limited ability to link data between the various research cohorts and national efforts collecting data at the point of care.

    Alleviate is the APDP Pain Research Data Hub. Alleviate is transforming UK pain datasets to be Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable (FAIR) and is providing expert data engineering, to enhance responsible, timely and trustworthy analysis by researchers and innovators, with the aim to improve lives.

    Alleviate forms part of an exciting larger £24M initiative to try and address the problem of chronic pain: The Advanced Pain Discovery Platform (APDP). The APDP is co-funded by MRC, Versus Arthritis and Eli Lily, and involves people living with chronic pain from the outset. The initial two phases of the Platform consist of Alleviate (the data hub) and four consortia, to be supplemented by several linked research grants. This innovative approach aims to break through the complexity of pain by delivering a consortium-based platform of national scale, generating discovery and early translational science.

    The four APDP multidisciplinary consortia are:

    • Partnership for Assessment and Investigation of Neuropathic Pain: Studies Tracking Outcomes, Risks and Mechanisms (PAINSTORM)
    • Psychosocial mechanisms of chronic pain: targets, translation, and therapeutic innovation
    • Consortium Against Pain InEquality (CAPE) – The impact of adverse childhood experiences on chronic pain and responses to treatment
    • ADVANTAGE visceral pain consortium: Advanced Discovery of Visceral Analgesics by Neuroimmune Targets and the Genetics of Extreme human phenotypes

    Alleviate will collaborate with the APDP consortia (and other groups) to provide a shared platform and data resource.

  • Guided by leading experts in pain research in partnership with the NHS, APDP consortia, people with lived experience of chronic pain and industry, Alleviate will:

    • Bring together, curate and improve existing datasets that are valuable to people researching chronic pain.
    • Be central to all data and results generated by all of the APDP research programmes, including the large consortia and hypothesis driven research projects.
    • Support research projects to reveal new and improved treatments across diverse chronic and debilitating pain conditions.

    Alleviate will tackle the long-term research challenges in understanding the complexity and unpredictability of pain by:

    • Providing a key resource for national and international pain communities, that will encourage sustainability for the whole pain research community.
    • Making available high quality, chronic pain focused research datasets to researchers, safely and securely within the HIC Trusted Research Environment.
    • Allowing linkage of these pain datasets to other relevant datasets, including routine health and social care records (e.g. prescribing and hospital admission), and research on other relevant conditions (e.g. mental health).

    Alleviate will participate in the UK Health Data Research Alliance which brings together leading health, care and research organisations united to establish best practice around the ethical use of UK health data for research and innovation at scale.

  • Alleviate is delivering five new capabilities:

    1. A platform for discoverability and feasibility analyses to understand if the required data and/or populations can answer research questions available through the HDR Innovation Gateway.
    2. Standardised and curated pain data across different modalities such as text, genetic and imaging data.
    3. The ability to link pain cohorts to multi-dimensional routine health and non-health related datasets UK-wide.
    4. Development of a robust UK-wide health data infrastructure to enable long-term impact and persistence.
    5. Ability to securely analyse data in the scalable HIC Trusted Research Environment.

    Alleviate provides a hybrid architecture where data partners can participate with their current governance and consent. The custodians of each pain dataset will choose whether to send data to the centralised hub or act as a federated node based upon data governance, size and complexity of the data and technical feasibility.

  • The Hub is led by the University of Dundee, University of Nottingham, King’s College London, Imperial College London, University of Oxford, University of Bath, and Cambridge Institute for Medical Research.

    Alleviate works with universities, the NHS, health charities, public body policy makers, and industry groups such as:

    • The APDP Consortia
    • Partnership for Assessment and Investigation of Neuropathic Pain: Studies Tracking Outcomes, Risks and Mechanisms (PAINSTORM)
    • Psychosocial mechanisms of chronic pain: targets, translation, and therapeutic innovation
    • Consortium Against Pain InEquality (CAPE) – The impact of adverse childhood experiences on chronic pain and responses to treatment
    • ADVANTAGE visceral pain consortium: Advanced Discovery of Visceral Analgesics by Neuroimmune Targets and the Genetics of Extreme human phenotypes
    • NHS-Digital
    • Population Health Scotland
    • SAIL Databank
    • Amazon Web Services (AWS)
    • Global Alliance of Partners for Pain Advocacy (GAPPA)
    • International Association for the Study of Pain
    • Health Data Research UK
    • Medical Research Council (MRC)
    • Versus Arthritis
  • People who live with pain are at the heart of Alleviate.

    Patient representatives with a lived experience of pain are an integral part of the leadership team, actively contributing at all levels within the Hub. They lead on engagement and dissemination strategies to maximise input, output, impact and patient benefit.

    We are establishing a large group of patient and public representatives to feed into Alleviate, if you are interested in joining this group, please contact Alice Dowden at alice.dowden@hdruk.ac.uk.

    The aim of the APDP, to move away from silo working to an actively collaborative approach, is essential to deliver on advances to improve the lives of people living with chronic pain. Alleviate is central to this, bringing together the individual consortia through the Hub, enabling connections that otherwise would not have happened.

    One of our Patient Insight Partners (PIP) provided the analogy: “You have to put books in the library to enhance knowledge.” The proposed use of innovative approaches to data discovery, standardisation, curation and cleaning, along with automation and a scalable secure infrastructure will create a powerful resource, that will be informed by what matters to people living with chronic pain.

    Alleviate will provide data, infrastructure and research services to support pain research at scale. Such research will provide new knowledge and understanding about chronic pain and its impact, to allow an individually targeted approach to management, that takes account of the significant variation and unpredictability that people living with chronic pain face. The research supported will:

    • Uncover the biological, psychological, and sociological mechanisms which lead to long-term pain; this will include those that are shared between different types of pain, as well as those that are specific to individual diagnoses.
    • Improve diagnosis and treatment.
    • Provide new pain biomarkers, allowing objective assessment and measurement of pain.
    • Identify and validate new treatments.