In 1996, Ron Dubner left NIDR to establish a new program in Oral and Craniofacial Biology at the University of Maryland. The following year, the NAB was reorganized as the Pain and Neurosensory Mechanisms Branch; Ray Dionne became acting chief, Max continued as chief of clinical trials, and Gracely, Kenshalo , Iadarola, and Ruda became section heads of their own research areas. A newly formed Pain Research Consortium , led by NIDR and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), and with 21 Institutes and Offices participating, gave evidence of a strong NIH commitment to the problem of pain, a commitment further demonstrated by the Consortium's 1997 Symposium, " New Directions in Pain Research. "

A stellar new NIH pain research program, with the Pain and Neurosensory Mechanisms Branch at its core, appeared to be on the horizon. As of spring 2000, however, the horizon seems no nearer and, unless strong institutional support is continued, the future of the Pain Branch itself is unclear.