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.

A quick search of PubMed pulls up some 650 articles including many reviews staking out his “dark side of addiction” orientation to substance 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.

8 Responses to “NIH Appoints NIAAA Director, Closes Circle on Merger”

  1. Juniper Says:

    Still, no integration? Now I am waiting for the creation of the National Institute on Cannabis Abuse.


  2. DrugMonkey Says:

    No. Collins put the kibosh on integration over a year ago.


  3. anonymous postdoc Says:

    Maybe a reorientation of the two institutes is in order. NIDA can become the National Institute of Drugs Make You Feel Good But Do Not Take Them, and NIAAA can become the National Institute of Not Taking Drugs After You’re Addicted Makes You Sad. Because that is my understanding of the current funding pattern.


  4. Dave Says:

    Should be merged. Collins sucks.


  5. Ola Says:

    So am I being dumb, or does this mean that NIH still has one too many institutes, and at some point one of them has to be axed, or an act of congress is required to approve an increase in the total number of institutes? My vote would be to ditch NCCAM.


  6. fjordmaster Says:

    Ola, I don’t believe any ICs need to be closed at this point. NCRR was shut down when NCATS started up, so there are still only 27 total ICs.


  7. Ola Says:

    Is that so? I heard the NCRR rumors but wasn’t aware it had actually happened, especially given the # of SIGs still going out the door here until quite recently.


  8. fjordmaster Says:


    Yea, NCRR was shut down at the end of 2011. Its programs were absorbed by the remaining ICs. This NOT gives the details:


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