Opioid Advisory Task Force
President Eric Kaler has stated that the University of Minnesota must leverage its expertise—from basic neuroscience to psychology to law—for the benefit of Minnesotans and Minnesota communities affected by opioid addiction, and that the University must also be prepared for possible new research opportunities related to this current public health and societal emergency.
The University of Minnesota Opioid Advisory Task Force, now overseen by the Office of Academic and Clinical Affairs, is composed of faculty who will review, discuss, and prioritize the activities at a systemwide level. Specifically, the task force will:
- Prepare our community of scholars to respond to research opportunities that can help advance our knowledge of addiction and pain management
- Assist leaders in the Academic Health Center to evaluate how and whether medical and health professional students are receiving training relevant to best practices in pain management, addiction prevention, and overdose prevention
- Evaluate and organize what the University can offer to Minnesota communities as they cope with direct and indirect effects of the opioid addiction epidemic
- Engage with public officials in relevant discussions of public policy, all in cooperation with Government Relations and other units across the University
University leaders have identified more than 130 faculty and staff across the University system working on opioid and addiction-related topics and issues.
Some prominent examples include:
- Medical Discovery Team on Addiction, funded by the State of Minnesota in 2014
- Minnesota Center for Chemical and Mental Health (MNCAMH), helps Minnesota’s clinical workforce become better equipped to support individuals experiencing mental health, substance use and co-occurring disorders
- Master of Professional Studies in Addictions Counseling (ADDC), prepares counselors to treat clients with substance use disorders
There are many other efforts that we hope to capture and highlight in the coming months.
OVPR has identified several existing University of Minnesota grant programs applicable to opioid-related research. See this list of Possible Internal Funding Sources for Opioid-Related Research. Please note that the University's Fall 2018 Grant-in-Aid funding competition is now open with a special category added for Opioid-related research.
After consultation with U of M chancellors, deans, and the Academic Health Center, OVPR has asked a smaller group to serve on the Opioid Advisory Task Force Leadership Committee:
Tim Ebner, Medical School, Neuroscience
Tim Ebner is Head of the Department of Neuroscience at the UMN Medical School. His laboratory is trying to understand how single neurons and populations of neurons encode the information needed to plan and execute limb movements. The goal is to decipher how the brain represents different movement parameters and then uses this information to control movements.
Carolyn Fairbanks, College of Pharmacy, Pharmaceutics
Carolyn Fairbanks develops non-addictive analgesic medications to treat chronic pain and treatments for opioid addiction. She also uses pre-clinical models of opioid addiction and relapse in the context of chronic pain to understand how the reward centers may be altered under the condition of chronic pain.
Ralph Hall, Law School
Ralph Hall is a professor of practice at the UMN Law School. An expert on FDA and related regulatory issues, Ralph is actively engaged in policy matters with Congress and the FDA.
Pinar Karaca-Mandic, Carlson School of Management, Finance (MILI)
Pinar Karaca-Mandic teaches economics of healthcare marketplace, health finance and medical technology evaluation, including as related to pharmaceutical use. She has published on issues related to opioid prescribing by physicians and hospitals, and is also the PI on a new grant by American Cancer Society to study the entry and uptake of biosimilar drugs in the U.S. markets.
Kerry Michael, U of M-Morris, Psychology
Kerry Michael is a professor of psychology at UMN Morris. She is the co-PI on a grant to evaluate drug court program in MN Eighth Judicial District.
Thomas Molitor, College of Veterinary Medicine, Population Medicine
Thomas Molitor is Department Chair and Professor of the Department of Veterinary Population Medicine, as well as adjunct in the Medical School. He researches the interactions of drugs of abuse with the nervous and immune systems, and integrates our understanding of these physiological interactions with their behavioral counterparts.
Laura Palombi, College of Pharmacy, Duluth; Department of Pharmacy Practice and Pharmaceutical Sciences
Laura Palombi is an assistant professor and community-based participatory action researcher focused on preventing and addressing substance abuse. She has been involved in a variety of projects and collaborations in Northeastern Minnesota, including memberships on numerous rural coalitions and partnerships with public health departments. She has affiliate appointments in the School of Public Health and Center for Bioethics.
Marizen Ramirez, School of Public Health, Division of Environmental Health Sciences
Injuries and violence are topics of interest to Marizen Ramirez, an epidemiologist who studies effective and evidence-based solutions. She has a special focus on vulnerable populations such as children, persons with disabilities, agricultural workers, minorities, and people in rural areas. With opioid overdose now the number one cause of injury death in the United States, she is beginning to explore risk factors and measures to prevent and respond to the opioid epidemic.
Charles Reznikoff, Medical School, Medicine
Charles Reznikoff participates in the Minnesota Department of Human Service Opioid Provider Work Group. He collaborates with the Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement to improve consistency of opioid prescribing and addiction treatment statewide. He also works with the Minnesota Medical Association and the Steve Rummler Hope Network to develop curriculum for medical students and providers to better prescribe opioids and treat opioid addiction.
Mark Thomas, Medical School, Neuroscience
Mark Thomas studies brain pathways and stimulation to prevent drug addiction relapse. These studies will provide insight into the cellular and molecular mechanisms of an important form of experience-dependent plasticity that may hold some of the clues to drug addiction.
Harold Tu, School of Dentistry, Developmental and Surgical Sciences
Harold Tu is Director of the Division of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the UMN School of Dentistry, as well as an associate professor. His research includes non-opioid protocol in managing acute postoperative pain. He also studies opioid knowledge and prescriber behavior of dental students, residents and faculty.
Deb Wamsley, College of Continuing and Professional Studies
Debra Wamsley has spent most of her career providing evidence-based care for co-occurring addictions and mental health concerns. In addition to primary care, her interests include advocacy and dispelling disparate access and resources for underserved communities.
George Wilcox, Medical School, Neuroscience
George Wilcox’s research is focused on neural mechanisms of opioid analgesia and analgesic synergy in spinal cord and peripheral tissues. He and his team have developed a non-addictive combination opioid treatment that lacks the CNS side effects like respiratory depression and addiction liability.
Task Force oversight moves to OACA, April 9, 2019
In light of the formation of the Office for Academic Clinical Affairs (OACA), as well as the Medical Discovery Team on Addiction in the Medical School, VPs Tolar and Cramer have assessed that oversight of the Opioid Advisory Task Force falls more appropriately within the portfolio of OACA. While OVPR will continue to engage with the Task Force, OACA will coordinate future task force activities.
FDA has launched an innovation challenge to spur the development of medical devices related to Opioid Use Disorder and pain management. Submissions are due September 30, 2018. FDA held a webinar for interested participants on July 25, 2018.
Federal Opioid Research and Response Landscape, May 25, 2018
Slides from a webinar by Lewis-Burke Associates for the University’s Medical Discovery Team on Addiction.
2018 Federal Budget Bill Summary, March 23, 2018
Bill summary excerpts related to opioids from Lewis Burke Associates.
Cross-Agency Opioid Federal Funding Opportunities, January 2018
Federal opportunities compiled by Lewis Burke Associates.
Task Force Charge Letter, January 18, 2018
Letter from President Eric Kaler.