Camron D. Bryant, PhD, associate professor of pharmacology and psychiatry, has been awarded a five-year, $3.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health National Institute on Drug Abuse, which will help fund his latest research on the various aspects of drug addiction, including genetics. Kathleen Kantak, PhD, professor of psychological and brain sciences at BU, is a multi-principal investigator recipient of this award.
Concurrent with the opioid epidemic, cocaine use disorder (CUD) and cocaine-related deaths have skyrocketed over the past decade. Despite a well-documented genetic component, the genetic factors underlying risk versus protection from CUD remain largely unknown. “At the moment, there are no FDA-approved drugs for CUD; thus, a better understanding of the risk factors for CUD could ultimately lead to new therapeutics,” explains Bryant.
Kantak and Bryant recently identified robust differences between two genetically similar experimental models that predict risk for cocaine addiction, including impulsive- and compulsive-like behaviors.
Using this award, they will apply quantitative genetics toward these behavioral measures and toward gene expression analysis (RNA, protein) to identify the causal genes underlying differences in susceptibility to these behaviors. According to Bryant, the fact that these model strains are nearly identical at the genetic level will facilitate the pace of gene discovery.
Bryant completed his undergraduate degree in psychology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and earned his PhD in neuroscience from UCLA in 2006 where he focused on signaling mechanisms and Pavlovian-conditioned properties of opioid adaptive behaviors. He completed positions as a postdoc and research associate in genetics at the University of Chicago prior to joining the department of pharmacology at BUSM in 2012.
He has received numerous awards including the Achievement Award for College Scientists (ARCS), the International Behavioural and Neural Genetics Society (IBANGS) Outstanding Young investigator Award for Postdocs, the IBANGS Early Career Scientist Award, and the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP) Travel Award. He is currently the president of IBANGS, a full member of ACNP and serves as a frequent ad hoc reviewer for several peer-reviewed journals in his field including Genes, Brain and Behavior, Psychopharmacology, PLoS Genetics, Neuropsychopharmacology, Communications Biology, and Addiction Biology. He currently a permanent member on NIH Study section and is the Associate Director for the Center for Systems Neuroscience at BU.