Number 38, October 2011

A new study on the research productivity in Syria puts the Syrian Center for Tobacco Studies (SCTS) as the leading institution for high-quality biomedical research in the nation. The center has far fewer staff members and other resources than many of the institutions with which it is compared.

According to the study, published in the inaugural issue of the Avicenna Journal of Medicine (July–September 2011), Syria’s Damascus University and its affiliated hospitals generated 56 percent of the clinical and biomedical research, followed by SCTS (15 percent) and the Syrian Ministry of Health and its affiliated hospitals (9 percent). But when the age of the institution is considered, SCTS, established in 2002, is the leading institution in research with an annual average of five publications per year.

The study authors note the need to promote research capabilities and to bridge the gap in research productivity by Syrian institutions. In an editorial for the same journal issue, Wasim Maziak, Ph.D., professor at Florida International University and director of SCTS, also talks about the lack of biomedical research in Arab countries and cites SCTS as a successful case study in how a smaller institution with fewer resources can produce high-quality biomedical research.

Initial funding for SCTS in 2002 came from a NIDA-supported 5-year Fogarty International Tobacco and Health Research and Capacity-Building Program grant, which has since been renewed. In addition to Dr. Maziak, the SCTS team includes collaborating scientists Thomas Eissenberg, Ph.D., Virginia Commonwealth University, and Kenneth Ward, Ph.D., University of Michigan, as well as the Syrian team of scientists and administrators.

The center is a model of international cooperation for the establishment of a sustainable research base in a developing country. It addresses the need to create local expertise not only in research methodology, but also in research support and fundraising areas. The center is currently working to examine patterns and determinants of tobacco use, understand local tobacco use methods, develop effective cessation interventions, and train tobacco control scientists. Last year’s regional training course held in Amman, Jordan, focused on tobacco dependence treatment.

The formula for success, says Maziak in his editorial, is the “professionals who understand what is needed to create a productive research environment, have some autonomy, and are successful in competing for international research funding.”

A recent meeting in Spain brought together professionals in addiction, addiction psychiatry, and mental health to share knowledge and recent research advances about dual disorders.

Dual disorders, dual diagnosis, dual pathology, and co-occurrence disorders are all related concepts describing the comorbid presence of substance use disorders and other mental disorders. These disorders are present in an increasing number of patients and pose a significant challenge to the clinician who treats them. NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D., and Iván Montoya, M.D., M.P.H., Medical Officer, Division of Pharmacotherapies and Medical Consequences of Drug Abuse, attended the congress titled “II International Congress on Dual Disorders: Addictive Behaviours and Other Mental Disorders” in Barcelona on October 5–8, 2011.

The first International Congress was held in Madrid in 2008. This year’s congress, sponsored in part by NIDA and organized by the Spanish Society of Dual Pathology, offered a platform for professionals in the fields of mental health and addictions to review and share recent knowledge and developments in the etiology, diagnosis, and treatment of dual disorders, from molecular biology to daily clinical practice and from prevention strategies to recovery programs.

Dr. Volkow spoke at one of the plenary sessions about recent research efforts to identify genetic and environmental factors underlying mental and addictive disorders and the most effective strategies for their successful treatment. The congress also included symposia, workshops, meetings with experts, educational update sessions, oral communications, and posters. A special 2-day symposium titled “Parallel Symposia on Self-Medication and Self-Regulation in Dual Diagnosis” was organized to review the evidence for and against the theory that some patients use drugs as an attempt to cope with the psychopathological distress they suffer.

Ten researchers received travel awards to present their research at the poster session during the National Hispanic Science Network (NHSN) International Conference. NHSN, which fosters the development and advancement of Hispanic scientists to promote future leaders, chose as its theme for this year, “Pathway Toward Health Equities in Hispanic Populations.” The NHSN conference International Poster Session showcased ongoing research projects to generate discussion and create linkages for collaborations. NIDA-supported scientists from Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Spain presented their research at the poster session, including:

  • Chile: Luis Caris, University of Chile
  • Costa Rica: Julio Bejerano, National Institute on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence
  • Mexico: Octavio Campollo, University of Guadalajara; Clara Fleiz, Claudia Rafful Loera, Maria Lourdes Gutierrez Lopez, Natania Oliva Robles, and Jorge Ameth Villatoro Velazquez, National Institute of Psychiatry Ramón de la Fuente Muñiz
  • Puerto Rico: Juan Carlos Reyes-Pulliza, University of Puerto Rico
  • Spain: Javier Gonzalez-Riera, Jaen Health District, Andalusian Public Health System

NIDA’s award-winning peer-reviewed journal, Addiction Science & Clinical Practice, was recently acquired by Biomed Central, a large science, technology, and medicine publisher. The journal continues to be freely available through PubMed Central but will no longer appear in a print edition.

Addiction Science & Clinical Practice is a peer-reviewed international online journal whose focus is to provide a forum for clinically relevant research and perspectives aimed at improving the quality of care for people with unhealthy alcohol, tobacco, or other drug use and addictive behaviors across a spectrum of clinical settings. The new co-editors in chief are NIDA-funded researchers and clinicians Richard Saitz, M.D., M.P.H., and Jeffrey Samet, M.D., M.A., M.P.H., both from the Boston University School of Medicine. They will continue their current editorship of the NIDA-supported online newsletter Alcohol, Other Drugs, and Health: Current Evidence.

You can view back issues of the journal at the NIDA Web site. Details about sought-after article topics and submission instructions can be found at the journal’s Web site,

The November 2, 2011, Letter of Intent deadline is fast approaching for a funding opportunity that enables African researchers to carry out large-scale studies on African populations.

The initiative, Human Heredity and Health in Africa and known simply as H3Africa, funds the construction of a research infrastructure in Africa. Supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s Common Fund as an initiative within its Global Health Program and by the Wellcome Trust, the program will create and support a network of laboratories that will apply leading-edge research to study the complex interplay between environmental and genetic factors which determines disease susceptibility and drug responses in African populations.

Researchers selected for H3Africa funding will establish or enhance local research facilities in their home country and use genome-wide scanning and sequencing technologies to identify genetic changes that contribute to the disorder selected for study. Previous genetic research suggests that populations in Africa have greater genetic diversity than populations in Europe and Asia. Genetic variation has been shown to affect how the body responds to environmental exposures and influences the risk of an illness.

The initiative is fundamentally different from much of the previous medical research in Africa. In the past, research samples from Africa were collected and brought back to Western laboratories for study. H3Africa aims to build the capacity for African researchers to study African populations to solve African problems. It is hoped that the initiative will create strong collaborations between African, European, and U.S. researchers.

Foreign institutions in African countries can apply for one of four types of funding: Collaborative Centers (U54), Research Grants (U01), Bioinformatics Network (U41), and Biorepository Grants (UH2, UH3). Applications are due soon; Letters of Intent are due on November 2, 2011, and applications are due on December 2, 2011. Find out more about the H3Africa funding opportunities and review samples of successful NIH grant applications. In addition, participate in the biweekly teleconferences to get help with the application process and join the H3Africa Applicant Discussion Group to exchange ideas, create collaborations, and explore possible research topics.

The Fogarty International Center is hosting a series of live webinars on research resulting from its funding opportunity on brain disorders. The series, covering a range of topics related to brain disorders, will help shed light on some of the challenges and potential solutions in developing collaborative research and capacity-building projects relevant to low- and middle-income countries. Register for the webinars at Presentations, which will begin at 8:00 a.m. U.S. Eastern time, include:

  • 20 Years and Still Learning: The Joys and Challenges of Collaborative Research in Sub-Saharan Africa
    Wednesday, October 5, 2011, Dr. Gretchen Birbeck, Michigan State University
  • Surveillance for Infectious Causes of Meningoencephalitis in Peru
    Wednesday, November 2, 2011, Dr. Joe Zunt, Harborview Medical Center
  • Enhancing Participation in Research Studies, Our Challenges and Solutions From Ethics to Social Marketing for Populations With Low Education Levels
    Wednesday, December 7, 2011, Dr. Gladys Maestre, University of Zulia
  • Screening for Neuro-Developmental Disabilities in a Developing Country: Challenges and Suggestions for the Way Forward
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012, Dr. Angelina Kakooza, Makerere University Mulago Hospital

NIDA is hosting small meetings in conjunction with larger, more broadly focused conferences to bring together drug abuse and addiction scientists to share research findings and explore potential collaborations. The mini-meetings include:

  • Friday, November 11, 2011, the NIDA Mini-Convention, a satellite meeting of the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) Annual Meeting, Washington, DC. The Mini-Convention will feature outstanding scientists presenting recent findings and discussing future directions in the neurobiology of drug abuse and addiction. The Mini-Convention includes four symposia, the SfN Jacob P. Waletzky Memorial Lecture, and a poster session for early career investigators. The symposia this year are: Autism, Addiction, and MeCP2; Synapse Organization and Plasticity in Drug Addiction; Using Optogenetic Tools To Shed Light on the Neural Mechanisms of Addiction; and Neurobiology of Behavioral and Emotional Regulation/Dysregulation.
  • April 19, 2012, the NIDA Mini-Blending Meeting, a satellite meeting of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), Atlanta, Georgia. The NIDA Mini-Blending Meeting marks the first generation of Mini-Blending events that the Clinical Trials Network will be co-hosting with partners in the drug abuse prevention field. The event will provide a novel opportunity for participants to learn about advances in addiction science, focus on skill-building sessions, and discover tips and strategies to implement evidence-based practices within their organizations. The agenda will be available soon. Contact Ron Dobbins at 301-451-9575 or to learn more.

Hubert H. Humphrey Drug Abuse Research Fellowship host universities each have teamed with a local college or university to broaden the impact of the program to the selected fellows as well as to faculty and students.

As part of the Humphrey Associate Campus Partnership, Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) is partnering with Virginia State University and Johns Hopkins University (JHU) is partnering with Prince Georges Community College in Maryland. Partnership programs such as these have been successful in the past in incorporating a range of professional development and outreach activities between participating students and faculty and the cohort of Hubert H. Humphrey Fellows. The partnerships also enhance the understanding of health disparities research and community-based approaches to substance abuse issues in impoverished minority populations in the United States. The exchanges take place through formal and informal meetings, guest lectures by the fellows, and university and community events.

Through the Hubert H. Humphrey Drug Abuse Research Fellowship, the NIDA International Program has partnered with the U.S. Department of State since 1990 to support this unique component of the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program. Fellows benefit from a combination of academic courses at a leading U.S. university and professional mentoring by U.S. experts and NIDA-supported scientists. The relationship fosters an exchange of knowledge and mutual understanding among drug abuse and addiction scientists. NIDA Hubert H. Humphrey Fellows are assigned to either VCU or JHU. Learn more about the fellowship at the NIDA International Program Web site.

Mark your calendars for June 8–11, 2012. The NIDA International Forum, held each year in conjunction with the annual scientific meeting of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD), will highlight the range and quality of drug abuse and addiction research conducted around the world.

The annual NIDA International Research Poster Session, a joint session with the CPDD meeting, will present drug abuse research being conducted across the globe and offers participants the opportunity to meet, exchange ideas, and explore areas of mutual scientific interest with potential collaborators from other countries. The deadline for poster abstracts and travel award applications is December 15, 2011. Check the International Forum page of the NIDA International Program Web site for details beginning November 15.

The NIDA International Program stays abreast of funding opportunities, upcoming deadlines for fellowship and grant applications, and meetings of interest to the international addiction and drug abuse research community.

Funding Opportunities

Application Deadlines

Fogarty International Center

NIH Funding Announcements

NIDA International Program Fellowships