NIH Appoints NIAAA Director, Closes Circle on Merger
October 31, 2013
As you are aware, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has been under the care of an Acting Director for years now as the attempt to merge the NIAAA with NIDA moved along before ultimately being axed by Francis Collins.
A Press Release today announces a new permanent Director has been appointed:
National Institutes of Health Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., announced today the selection of George F. Koob, Ph.D., as Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Dr. Koob is expected to join the NIH in January 2014.
“With his distinguished reputation and vision, I am confident that George will encourage innovative ideas in the basic neurobiology of addiction, and will be dedicated to bridging the gap between our understanding of alcohol abuse, alcoholism, and addiction and developing new, targeted treatments,” said Collins.
As NIAAA director, Dr. Koob will oversee the institute’s $458 million budget, which primarily funds alcohol-related research in a wide range of scientific areas including genetics, neuroscience, epidemiology, prevention, and treatment. The institute also coordinates and collaborates with other research institutes and federal programs on alcohol-related issues and national, state, and local institutions, organizations, agencies, and programs engaged in alcohol-related work.
Dr. Koob comes to the NIH from The Scripps Research Institute, California Campus, where he is Chairman, Committee on the Neurobiology of Addictive Disorders, and Director, Alcohol Research Center. He earned his Ph.D. in Behavioral Physiology at Johns Hopkins University.
Dr. Koob’s early research interests were directed at the neurobiology of emotion, with a focus on the theoretical constructs of reward and stress. His contributions have led to the understanding of the anatomical connections of emotional systems and the neurochemistry of emotional function. Dr. Koob also is one of the world’s authorities on alcohol and drug addiction. He has contributed to the understanding of the neurocircuitry associated with the acute reinforcing effects of drugs of abuse and more recently on the neuroadaptations of these reward circuits associated with the transition to dependence.
His wikipedia page indicates that Dr. Koob is on the ISI Highly Cited list and a quick trip to Web of Knowledge shows an h-index of 123.
I think this selection by the NIH indicates a degree of seriousness in the recent RFAs and Supplements designed to advance the”functional integration” of research on alcohol and other drugs. While Koob has had a very substantial amount of work in alcohol over the past years, he has also maintained programs with psychomotor stimulants and opioids.
So any investigators* who were a little suspicious that this “functional integration” stuff was just to soothe feelings over all the wasted time, money and stress of the attempted merger have to walk that cynicism back a bit. The NIH could have easily appointed a pure alcohol type of researcher, even an alcoholism clinician. But the choice of a pre-clinical scientist who has research feet planted across many different substances of abuse sends the signal that there is meat behind the idea of integration.
*I’ll raise my hand on that one.