BIDDEFORD — The University of New England has received the largest research award in its history.

Spokeswoman Kathleen Taggersell said Monday that the National Institutes of Health has given the university a $10 million grant.

The grant money, which must be spent over a five-year period, will be used to facilitate the discovery and development of new pain therapies.

The funds will also go toward establishing UNE’s Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) for the study of pain and sensory function. The center’s mission will be to contribute to the scientific understanding of the neurobiology of chronic pain.

“Chronic pain is a major health, social and economic problem worldwide, affecting about one in three people. Although research has vastly increased our knowledge about the basic mechanisms of acute, inflammatory and neuropathic pain, relatively little is known about the processes involving in the transition from acute to chronic pain,” Ian Meng, an investigator for the university’s Center for Excellence in the Neurosciences, said in a statement.

“Funding will help drive innovate research that increases our understanding of pain as a progressive disease,” he added.