Number 29, March 2010

Participants from 13 Nations at NIDA Fellowship Orientation

Participants in the NIDA Fellowship Orientation included (sitting, from left): Hamida Ebadi (JHU/Afghanistan), Dale Weiss (NIDA), Thanda Kin (VCU/Burma), Rawnak Aqrawi (VCU/Iraq), and Chinyere Okonkwo (VCU/Nigeria). Standing, middle row: Mario Zapata (INVEST-CTN/Colombia), Hoang Huy Vu (Emory graduate student), Tetiana Kiriazova (Emory/Ukraine), Leonardo Estacio, Jr. (INVEST-CTN/Philippines), [Mohd] Muzafar Razali (VCU/Malaysia), Valeriy Ryabukha (VCU/Ukraine), Murilo Battisti (VCU/Brazil), Gabriela Olivera (VCU/Uruguay), Brent Mancha (JHU), Andrea Domanico (JHU/Brazil), and Esther Aryee (JHU/Ghana). Standing back row: Steve Gust (NIDA), Alberto Moriggia (INVEST/Italy), Randy Koch (VCU), Sergey Koren (JHU/Russia), and Wali Omer (JHU/Iraq).

Hubert H. Humphrey Fellows from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), Johns Hopkins University (JHU), and Emory University joined NIDA INVEST and INVEST/CTN Fellows for an orientation program. International Program Director Dr. Steven W. Gust and Associate Director Dale Weiss hosted the program to introduce the fellows to the Institute’s international research priorities, NIDA and National Institutes of Health resources that the fellows can access during and after their fellowships, and collaboration and training tools developed by the NIDA International Program. Mr. Barrett Whitener introduced a webinar series to help international researchers improve their scientific communication skills. Dr. Krystyna Isaacs and Dr. Joseph Perpich discussed the NIDA International Virtual Collaboratory (NIVC) and the Humphrey Fellowship Professional Affiliation Directory created through NIVC. Representatives from NIDA divisions and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration talked with the fellows about their offices’ international research priorities and opportunities for collaborative international research.

Fellows toured the Intramural Research Program (IRP) in Baltimore, meeting with the IRP Deputy Clinical Director, Captain Michelle Leff, M.D., M.B.A., and the IRP Institutional Review Board Administrator, Ms. Anne E. Gupman. The fellows toured the chemistry and drug metabolism laboratories with Dr. Robert Goodwin; the magnetic resonance imaging suite with Dr. Eliot Stein; Archway Clinic with Dr. Kenzie Preston and Ms. Margaret Kroen; and the nicotine addiction and cognition outpatient testing rooms with Dr. Steve Heishman. Fellows also toured the National Library of Medicine and met with staff at the Fogarty International Center. In addition to the 16 fellows from 12 nations, Mr. Hoang Huy Vu, a Vietnamese graduate student at Emory University, also participated in the orientation.

The Brazilian Ministry of Justice and the Brazilian Secretariat for Drug and Alcohol Policies has awarded a large grant to the Center for Drug and Alcohol Research at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, Brazil, to integrate drug abuse treatment and prevention programs in 60 counties in the states of Porto Alegre, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Vitoria, and Brasilia. Former NIDA Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow Flavio Pechansky, M.D., Ph.D., M.Sc., Director of the Center for Drug and Alcohol Research, will coordinate the project. Researchers will identify and evaluate public, community, and private programs that already exist in these localities, mapping and georeferencing services to improve referral systems. The project will develop specialty training courses for approximately 6,000 health care and social work professionals in treatment and social rehabilitation of individuals with drug and alcohol abuse problems, particularly juveniles, and will educate more than 3,000 law enforcement officers and judiciary professionals about drug and alcohol issues. Researchers also will conduct a wide array of studies aimed specifically at crack users and pregnant at-risk women and their newborns.

Application Deadline: April 15, 2010

The NIDA International Program will provide one tuition waiver to a U.S. participant, and the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMw) will provide five tuition waivers for participants from new European Union countries at the Dutch Summer Institute on Alcohol, Drugs and Addiction. The Summer Institute is a joint initiative of ZonMw and the University of Amsterdam Graduate School of Social Sciences, which will host the program from July 4-16, 2010. The intensive, multidisciplinary program offers graduate-level and continuing professional development training in addiction research, while promoting opportunities for international networking. Course credits from the University of Amsterdam and continuing education credits for most disciplines are available. Application forms and more details are available online.

The Fogarty International Center intends to commit up to $2.7 million in Fiscal Year 2010 for 6 to10 awards to provide short-term support to U.S. universities and their partners to create infrastructure, resources, and opportunities for training postdoctoral investigators to carry out innovative, multidisciplinary team research in global health. The initiative (RFA-OD-10-007) emphasizes hands-on, problem-solving, and collaborative approaches and may require the development of new training models and new partnerships within and beyond the university community. Letters of intent were due February 22 for NIH Resource-Related Research Project (R24) awards of up to $250,000 in direct costs for a single academic institution or $400,000 in direct costs for a consortium. Because this was the first time the U.S. economic stimulus funds had been made available for international research projects and the deadline for letters of intent was less than 30 days from the Request for Applications release date, the NIDA International Program personally notified potentially eligible grantees about the opportunity.

Phil Skolnick, Ph.D., D.Sc. (Hon.), a leader in the worlds of corporate and academic drug research, has been appointed director of the NIDA Division of Pharmacotherapies and Medical Consequences of Drug Abuse (DPMCDA). Dr. Skolnick was previously a research professor of psychiatry at New York University Langone Medical Center. He served as chief scientific officer at DOV Pharmaceutical, Inc., from 2001–2009. Under his leadership, DOV Pharmaceutical discovered and developed novel reuptake inhibitor platforms, including the first triple (norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine) reuptake inhibitor tested in humans. These compounds can be targeted to a wide variety of neuropsychiatric disorders ranging from depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder to pain and obesity. At NIDA, he will lead a team that stimulates and conducts all phases of medication development from synthesis and screening of potential drug entities to preparing submissions for New Drug Applications. DPMCDA funds research and development through peer-reviewed grants and contracts, as well as interagency agreements to support the medication development process and clinical trial infrastructure. Dr. Skolnick first joined the National Institutes of Health in 1972 as a staff fellow in what is now the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and worked there and at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism until he accepted a position at Eli Lilly in 1997.

NIDA has selected researchers from Australia, Chile, and India as INVEST-Clinical Trials Network (CTN) Fellows for 2010–2011:

  • Suzanne Nielsen, Ph.D., BPharm, senior research fellow and senior pharmacist at Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre, Fitzroy, Australia, will work with Walter L. Ling, M.D., University of California, Los Angeles. She will spend her fellowship gaining experience in conducting clinical trials in community-based settings and learning new research methodologies and analytical skills. Dr. Nielsen will conduct secondary analysis of CTN data to study gender differences and variations in drug use and HIV-related risk behavior outcomes for buprenorphine treatment of heroin versus prescription opioid dependence.
  • Felipe Vallejo Reyes, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at the Universidad Católica de Valparasíso, Chile, will work with Eugene C. Somoza, M.D., Ph.D., University of Cincinnati. He will spend his fellowship evaluating the cognitive impairment of cocaine abusers in different stages of recovery, using the autobiographical episode interview to determine how a patient’s length of abstinence correlates with the ability to remember past episodes and recount them in a complex linguistic narrative, which has been shown to be highly sensitive to the effect of neuropsychological impairment even in mildly impaired subjects. Dr. Vallejo also will participate in the design, implementation, and analysis of several clinical trials underway at the Ohio Valley CTN Node to learn critical aspects of each phase of the studies.
  • Meera Vaswani, Ph.D., a professor at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, will work with Wade Berrettini, M.D., Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania. She will use her fellowship to learn methodologies in genotyping, linkage disequilibrium, and pharmacogenetic data analysis. Dr. Vaswani will use these skills to explore candidate genes in opioid-addicted subjects to better understand the role of the mu-opioid receptor in opioid addiction, possibly opening new avenues for treatment and helping to identify which patients are likely to benefit from agonist therapies.

Senior drug abuse researchers from Taiwan and the United States have been named Distinguished International Scientists, receiving support from the NIDA International Program to advance their collaborations with colleagues in the United States and Russia, respectively:

  • Hwei-Hsien Chen, Ph.D., a pharmacologist and toxicologist at Tzu Chi University, Taiwan, will work with Athina Markou, Ph.D., University of California, San Diego, to investigate the reward-enhancing effects of toluene, an abused inhalant. Demonstrating that these reward-enhancing effects of toluene occur in mice would permit future research to use the multiple strains of transgenic and knockout mice that are available. Drs. Chen and Markou also will investigate how glutamatergic pharmacological manipulations available to treat humans may affect toluene-induced facilitation of brain reward function, which could suggest eventual pharmacotherapies to prevent toluene abuse. Dr. Chen visited Dr. Markou’s laboratory in fall 2008 to develop the DISCA application and will concentrate on mastering the mouse intracranial self-stimulation procedure, which is currently unavailable in Taiwan.
  • Kenneth W. Griffin, Ph.D., M.P.H., Cornell University, will prepare a grant application with Irina Pervova, Ph.D., St. Petersburg State University, Russia, proposing a systematic program of National Institutes of Health-funded research projects designed to export and adapt evidence-based U.S. prevention programs for Russian youth. Drs. Griffin and Pervova will propose to examine the etiology of substance abuse and HIV risk behavior among Russian youth, identify a U.S. prevention program for implementation in Russia, and implement and evaluate the adapted program in efficacy and effectiveness trials in St. Petersburg. Their collaboration grew out of a 2006 NIDA-funded conference where Dr. Pervova chaired the local organizing committee and Dr. Griffin both helped plan the meeting and participated in it.

INVEST Fellow Dr. Marta Concheiro Guisán, Spain, ended her successful drug abuse research fellowship having developed and validated two new, noninvasive methods to quantify the level of licit and illicit drugs in biological samples from opiate-dependent patients, as well as publishing several scientific articles and presenting her research at scientific meetings. The new methods developed by Dr. Concheiro and her mentor, Dr. Marilyn Huestis, NIDA Intramural Research Program (IRP), permit researchers to quantify quickly and simultaneously 16 drugs and their metabolites in oral fluid or 14 drugs and their metabolites in sweat patches. The methods were validated using specimens from a group of opioid-dependent, buprenorphine-maintained pregnant women enrolled in a joint Johns Hopkins University/NIDA IRP randomized controlled clinical trial that compares methadone versus buprenorphine treatment. Drs. Concheiro, Heustis, and their colleagues published articles in Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry (2009) 394(2):513–522; Forensic Science International (2009) 188(1–3):144–145; Clinical Chemistry (2009) 55(6):1177–1187; Journal of Analytical Toxicology (2009) 33(5):243–252; and Journal of Chromatography B (2009) 877(27):3065–3071. Dr. Concheiro also presented her research at the 2009 meetings of the Society of Forensic Toxicologists, International Association of Therapeutic Drug Monitoring and Clinical Toxicology, College on Problems of Drug Dependence, and NIDA International Forum. Dr. Concheiro has returned to research and teaching in the Forensic Toxicology Service, University of Santiago de Compostela Faculty of Medicine, and is planning future collaborations with Dr. Huestis.

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

Upcoming Application Deadlines

Upcoming Program Announcement Receipt Dates From Fogarty International Center