CINCINNATI—A University of Cincinnati (UC) researcher will receive $2.5 million over five years from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to support his work on a potential immunotherapy for cocaine addiction.
Andrew Norman, PhD, a professor in the psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience department, is one of four winners of the NIDA’s first Translational Avant-Garde Awards for Innovative Medication Development Research. Award winners receive $500,000 per year for five years to support their research.
Norman, in collaboration with W. James Ball, PhD, of the pharmacology and cell biophysics department, is working on the development of a human monoclonal antibody (an antibody derived from a single cell for use against a specific target) against cocaine. Such an antibody, when injected into the bloodstream, would attach to cocaine, preventing it from entering the brain and thereby limiting its behavioral effects.
This humanized monoclonal antibody has previously been shown by Norman and Ball to reduce cocaine’s effects in an animal model of relapse.
"I’m grateful to NIDA for this award, which is vital to our multidisciplinary translational research,” says Norman, who is director of the psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience department’s neuroscience laboratory and is based at the College of Medicine and at UC’s Reading Campus. "It will greatly enhance our development of this potential medication for the treatment of cocaine addiction.”
The other three awardees are William Brimijoin, PhD, of the Mayo Clinic; Jia Bei Wang, PhD, of the University of Maryland at Baltimore; and Daniele Piomelli, PhD, of the University of California, Irvine. Brimijoin and Wang are also researching cocaine therapies; Piomelli is pursuing a new medication for smoking cessation.
"Science has clearly shown that drug addiction results from profound disruptions in brain structure and function, presenting numerous potential targets for medications development—yet, few medications have come to fruition,” says NIDA Director Nora Volkow, MD. "The array of problem-solving approaches submitted by the awardees could help us quicken the pace to find urgently needed medications for addiction.”
NIDA is a component of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The newly announced awards are an extension of NIDA’s Avant-Garde Award for Innovative HIV/AIDS Research, now in its third year.