Congratulations to Dr. Lindsay Farrer and Dr. Timothy Heeren, as well as their colleagues at Boston University, on receiving a five year training grant on addiction from Burroughs Wellcome Fund to support specialized later stage PhD training “Transformative Training Program in Addiction Science (TTPAS)”.
“Addictions to smoking, alcohol, and illicit drugs are among the nation’s most critical public health and societal problems. The genetic vulnerability, environmental exposures, and individual behaviors that contribute to the brain dysfunction and compulsive tendencies that mark addiction make it one of the most complicated diseases to study and treat. Some researchers, especially at Boston University, have developed multi-disciplinary collaborations, but training addiction scientists still proceeds in disciplinary silos, preventing emergence of the broad skill set needed for genuine breakthroughs. TTPAS will prepare investigators to apply diverse approaches to addiction research using tools from bench science, medicine, population studies, statistics, and computational biology.
Three core components anchor TTPAS: a biweekly joint seminar focusing on how different disciplines approach a similar issue in addiction; multiple mentors from different disciplines for each trainee and multi-disciplinary dissertation committees; and a clinical module enabling trainees to experience people in addiction treatment/recovery. The program includes a concentrated effort to achieve student diversity and to assure that all trainees have a thorough understanding of the intellectual bases, techniques, and the languages of reporting in all the disciplines to facilitate effective communication across lay and professional audiences.
Professors Lindsay Farrer (an addiction genetics researcher) and Timothy Heeren (a senior biostatistician with 25 years of addiction research experience) will lead TTPAS. Dr. Farrer co-directs the nation’s largest genetics study of addiction to cocaine, opiates, alcohol, and nicotine among Caucasians and African Americans. Dr. Heeren is currently studying the effects of maternal cocaine use on child development and the impact of alcohol addiction on HIV treatment outcomes.
The co-leaders are supported by a unique and large group of established Boston University addiction scientists in medicine, psychology, neuroscience, pharmacology, biology, psychiatry, social work, engineering, biostatistics, informatics, health services research and public health who already are linked together through multi-disciplinary faculty seminars. Boston University faculty investigators currently direct more than 50 funded addiction-related research projects including pharmacological and neurocognitive mechanisms regulating drug withdrawal and relapse in animal models; the relationship between long-term alcohol abuse and decrements in brain structure and cognitive-emotional functioning among adult alcoholic men and women; and the efficacy of pharmacological treatments for alcoholism in a clinic population.”