News and Upcoming Events


TTPAS featured in the BU Med School Campus + Alumni magazine – Click Here


Seminar Series: Boston University Transformative Training Program in Addiction Science




December 18, 2015 at 3:00 pm
BU School of Medicine, Evans Building, Room E201
Camron Bryant, Ph.D., Professor of Pharmacology and Psychiatry
Boston University School of Medicine
to present: “Gene mapping, genome editing, and -omics approaches to addiction traits: Moving from discovery to mechanism”

January 8, 2016 at 3:00 pm
BU School of Medicine, Evans Building, Room E201
John Kelly, Ph.D., Elizabeth R. Spallin Associate Professor of Psychiatry-Harvard Medical School
Director-MGH Recovery Research Institute
to present:”Raionatla, role, and science of recovery support services”

February 26, 2016 at 3:00 pm
BU School of Medicine, Evans Building, Room E201
Laura Holsen, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School
to present: “The role of ghrelin in reward signaling and addictive behaviors”



November 20, 2015
Kathleen Kantak, Ph.D., Professor, Director Laboratory of Behavioral Neuroscience Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Boston University
presented: “Cocaine Abuse Risk Associated with ADHD Medications: Insights From an Animal Model of ADHD”

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October 9, 2015 at 3:00 pm
Ksenija Marinkovic
, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology
San Diego State University
presented: “Population health and substance use care: parallel or converging trajectories?”


September 18, 2015
Marc Gourevitch, MD, MPH, Professor and Chair, Department of Population Health

NYU School of Medicine
presented: “Population health and substance use care: parallel or converging trajectories?”


May 22, 2015
Peter Friedmann, MD, Professor of Medicine, Professor of Health Services, Policy and Practice
Brown University
presented: “Opioid Use Disorders in Criminal Justice Populations“


April 10, 2015
Richard Saitz, MD, MPH – Boston University School of Public Health

presented: “Integrating substance use and other health care: Lessons from failures”


February 27, 2015
Sandro Galea, MD, MPH, DrPH
Boston University School of Public Health

presented: “Integrative Genetics and Genomic Strategies for the Classification of Psychiatric Disorders”


January 23, 2015
Elissa Chesler, Ph.D, Associate Professor
The Jackson Laboratory
presented: “Integrative Genetics and Genomic Strategies for the Classification of Psychiatric Disorders”


November 21, 2014
Klaus Miczek, Ph.D – Tufts University, Sackler School
of Graduate Biomedical Sciences
presented: “Social Stress, Alcohol and Cocaine: the Role of CRF-Dopamine Systems”


June 13, 2014
Clarissa Parker, MD, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience
Middlebury College
presented: “GWAS of behavioral traits and gene expression in mice: Implications for addiction”


April 4, 2014
Michael Stein, MD, Professor of Medicine and Professor of Health Services, Policy & Practice
Brown University, Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies
presented: “Smoking Cessation in Addiction Treatment Programs”

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March 21, 2014
Linda Dwoskin, Ph.D, Associate Dean for Research, Endowed Professor in Pharmaceutical Education

University of Kentucky, College of Pharmacy
presented: Discovery of Novel Medications for Nicotine and Methamphetamine Abuse”

* * *

January 18, 2014
James Sargent, MD, Professor of Pediatrics; Professor of Community and Family Medicine
Co-Director, Cancer Control Research Program
Norris Cotton Cancer Center, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth
presented:“Exposure to alcohol brands in movies and cable television programs and their relation with teen drinking

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December 12, 2013
Roger Weiss, MD, Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School Chief
Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse McLean Hospital
presented: Treatment of Prescription Opioid Dependence”

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November 22, 2013
George Uhl, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Neurology, Department of Neuroscience
The John Hopkins University
presented:”Addiction Genetics: postGWAS studies in humans and mouse models”



 March 7, 2014 GENOME-WIDE STUDIES IMPLICATE CALCIUM SIGNALING AND NEURONAL POTASSIUM CHANNEL FUNCTION GENES IN ADDICTION TO COCAINE AND OPIATES Dr. Lindsay Farrer, Professor and Chief of the Biomedical Genetics division and Director of TTPAS, and his colleagues reported in several recently published papers the discovery of multiple genes associated with risk of addiction to cocaine, opioids, and alcohol. Although it has been recognized for several decades that there is a strong heritable component of addiction to many drugs, robust evidence for contribution of specific genes has been meager, especially for dependence on cocaine or opioids. Dr. Farrer has been studying genetic factors predisposing to substance dependence for more than 15 years in collaboration with other researchers at




and the

University of Pennsylvania

. African American (AA) and European American (EA) families and unrelated individuals (> 10,000 individuals in total) were recruited and screened for numerous substance dependence diagnoses, including opioids, cocaine, alcohol, and nicotine. Recently, Dr. Farrer and Dr. Richard Sherva, a BUSM faculty member in the Biomedical Genetics division, directed genome-wide association analyses using detailed standardized psychiatric interview and demographic data, and genotypes for several million single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) obtained from approximately 5,700 study participants.

In the study focused on opioid dependence, published in Biological Psychiatry (, genome-wide significant evidence of association was identified in the AA group with a SNP in the KCNG2 gene which encodes a neuronal voltage gated potassium channel (figure 1).

Figure 1: Association results from the KCNG2 gene on chromosome 18 with opioid dependence

Research Rich Sherva pic1.jpg

Several genes with the strongest evidence for association are clustered in biological pathways involved in the regulation of calcium and potassium levels and synaptic long term potentiation in neurons (figure 2).

Figure 2: The role of genes identified in GWAS of AA subjects in the canonical pathway “synaptic long term potentiation.”

Reserch Rich Sherva pic2

In a separate paper published in Molecular Psychiatry (, the investigative team reported a genome-wide significant association between risk for cocaine dependence and a SNP in FAM53B, a gene involved in regulating cell proliferation (figure 3). This finding was evident in both AA and EA samples. Intriguingly, several of the most significantly associated genes cluster in pathways related to calcium/potassium signaling.

Figure 3: Association results from the FAM53B gene on chromosome 10 with cocaine dependence.

Research Rich Sherva pic3

Most recently, Dr. Farrer, Dr. Sherva and their collaborators, identified association of alcohol dependence with several previously reported mutations in alcohol metabolizing enzymes. Importantly, the most significant findings were observed with two distinct non-synonymous (.i.e., predicted to be functionally relevant) mutations in the alcohol dehydrogenase 1B gene (ADH1B) that are population-specific (figures 4 and 5).

Figure 4: Association results within the alcohol metabolizing gene cluster on chromosome 4 in AAs

Research Rich Sherva pic4

Figure 5: Association results within the alcohol metabolizing gene cluster on chromosome 4 in EAs

Research Rich Sherva pic5

Novel associations were also identified in one small intergenic region on chromosome 2 in both the EA and AA cohorts, and population-specific significant associations were identified with markers located on chromosomes 5, 9 and 19. These findings were also published in Molecular Psychiatry ( These results reveal several interesting facts about addiction. First, certain risk variants are population-specific while others are shared among individuals of AA and EA ancestry. Second, the genetic susceptibility to substance dependence is likely mediated by proteins involved in both the metabolism of substances as well as those involved in brain development, learning, and neuronal excitability. Finally, some genes appear to alter an individual’s risk for dependence on a specific substance, while others act as determinants of general substance dependence susceptibility.


November 2013

The Addiction Puzzle Series in Boston Drug or alcohol addiction affects nearly 23 million Americans and costs the United States an estimated $428 billion each year. Modern science has dispelled many misconceptions about the disease and scientists are working hard to find effective treatments. At Boston University, more than 100 researchers have been awarded over $130 million in addiction-related research and services grants since 2006, and faculty currently direct over 50 funded addiction-related research projects. Please click here for the complete series information. **************************************************************************************************************

P A S T    E V E N T S

Addictions and Gender

Wednesday, April 24, 2013 Research Symposium Bakst Auditorium, BU School of Medicine

New research with human and nonhuman participants has confirmed that gender differences are manifested differently in the addictions. For more information on the event- click here! * * * Thursday, February 14, 2013 Research Seminar : Transdisciplinary Research in Addiction Science Keefer Auditorium, BU School of Medicine was open to all BU faculty, staff and students Although much has been learned about the behaviors and biochemical imbalances associated with addictions, research leading to effective treatments has been slow.  Addiction researchers using clinical and epidemiological approaches usually do not collaborate with those conducting basic research in cells and animal models because they do not share the same language, skill sets or perspective. By comparison, there are areas in which a new generation of bilingual scientists has emerged, such as breast cancer and cardiovascular disease, and not surprisingly these are the areas where the most dramatic clinical progress has been made. This seminar will focus on strategies for studying addictions and other complex diseases that integrate population, computational and basic science approaches.