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NIH Nixes Idea of Creating a Single Abuse and Addiction Institute

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institutes of Health has scratched a plan it had been considering to pull its two research institutes that focus on the abuse of and addiction to drugs and alcohol into one single institute that would focus on addiction and substance abuse.

NIH made the decision two years after a review board had recommended that they be molded into one institute.

NIH Director Francis Collins said on Friday that the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism will stay separate. But, he added that some "functional integration of existing research resources" at the two institutes will take place.

He suggested that the effort involved in creating a new institute during a time when NIH is under a fiscal squeeze was not worth the trouble, particularly when research between the two centers already is being coordinated.

The NIH Scientific Management Review Board issued a report two years ago advising that NIDA and NIAAA be placed in a single new NIH institute that would focus on substance use, abuse, and addiction-related research in order to optimize the NIH investment in these areas. The SMRB also had considered that the two institutes could pursue some functional integration of resources, but at the time suggested putting the two together into one entity.

Collins had previously supported the creation of a single institute that would house and fund addiction and substance abuse studies of both drugs and alcohol, saying in response to the SMRB report in 2010 that "the formation of a single, new institute devoted to such research makes scientific sense and would enhance NIH's efforts to address the substance abuse and addiction problems that take such a terrible toll on our society."

But Collins said on Friday that after a "rigorous review and extensive consultation with stakeholders," he has opted to pursue the functional integration path, rather than undertaking the more intensive effort of creating another new institute at NIH. Collins led the creation of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences last year, which required the dissolution of the National Center for Research Resources and the spreading and integration of its components among other institutes.

"NIH has made significant progress in the last two years, coordinating research on substance use, abuse, and addiction across its various institutes and centers. This progress has bolstered my confidence that NIH can achieve the SMRB recommendations without structural reorganization," Collins said in a statement Friday.

"Moreover, given budget uncertainties, NIH must focus on advancing the entire biomedical research enterprise. The time, energy, and resources required for a major structural reorganization are not warranted, especially given that functional integration promises to achieve equivalent scientific and public health objectives," he said.

Both NIDA and NIAAA fund research that delves into the biological basis of addiction. Earlier this year, NIDA said that it plans to prioritize studies of genes and variants that may be involved in addiction and emphasized its particular desire to fund bioinformatics and computational biology-based projects that use data from dbGaP, the 1000 Genomes Project, ENCODE, and other NIH resources to study addiction-related genes.

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