From bedside to bench: experimental medicine and clinical insights for understanding chronic pain

13.00, Friday 10 December 2021

Zoom Online Workshop

On Friday 10 December, the Academy of Medical Sciences' FORUM, in partnership with the British Neuroscience Association, the Physiological Society and Versus Arthritis, hosted a virtual workshop on 'From bedside to bench: experimental medicine and clinical insights for understanding chronic pain' followed by a digital networking session.


Chronic pain - pain that carries on for three months or longer despite medication or treatment - is estimated to affect up to 43% of the UK population and this is likely to rise with our ageing population and increasing prevalence of comorbidities.[1] In addition, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is likely to increase the number of people living with chronic pain, either due to the effects of ‘Long COVID’ – the long term effects of COVID-19 infection - or due the exacerbation of existing conditions due to health service disruption or the mental and physical stress of lockdown and social distancing. 

Despite the prevalence of chronic pain, treatment options are limited. The best pain therapies currently available (i.e., non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs and opioids) are effective in less than 50% of patients and in these patients there is less than 50% decrease in pain.[2] New NICE guidelines demonstrate that the evidence for the effectiveness of current pain therapies is low, and that the risks often outweigh the benefits.[3]

There is a need for new, more effective therapies for chronic pain yet the pipeline for new pain therapies is stalled. There have been a number of high-profile clinical failures of pain targets that looked promising from preclinical studies. For instance, the sodium channel, Nav1.7, has strong genetic linkage to pain in humans, but has proved very difficult to understand and target selectively.[4] The failure of ‘forward’ translation of basic pain research into therapies has led the predictability and efficacy of preclinical pain studies to be questioned.

We need to learn from the failures within the pain field and consider where new research could be most impactful for us to better understand pain. One area of interest is ‘reverse’ or ‘backwards’ translation - beginning with understanding pain in patients and working backwards from this to inform therapies and mechanistic studies.

This workshop, rescheduled from 2020, explored the current landscape of translational chronic pain research and considered how clinical research, through experimental medicine, clinical insights and patient experience, can help provide new evidence sources to inform preclinical drug discovery.

The key objectives of the workshop were to:

  • Explore how insights from clinical research can provide new opportunities to inform drug discovery programmes (and other therapeutic interventions) to overcome the translational challenges of chronic pain research.
  • Consider how we can enable such insights to be generated, shared and acted upon through cross-sector collaboration, knowledge exchange and strategic coordination.


This FORUM workshop took place at 13.00 to 17.00 on Friday 10 December 2021 via Zoom and was followed by a networking session from 17.00 to 18.30 using the digital networking platform, Remo.

To find out more, please get in touch with the FORUM team at

The Academy’s FORUM provides a neutral and independent platform for individuals from across academia, industry, the NHS and Government, and the charity, regulatory and wider healthcare sector, to meet and take forward national discussions on scientific opportunities, technology trends and associated strategic choices for healthcare. Find out more.


[1] Fayaz et al. Prevalence of chronic pain in the UK: a systematic review and meta-analysis of population studies. BMJ Open 2016;6:e010364.

[2] Basbaum AI & Braz JM (2016). Cell transplants to treat the “disease” of neuropathic pain and itch. Pain. 157, S42-S47.




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