June 5, 2024

National Institutes of Health awards Wayne State $1.19 million for addiction neuroscience predoctoral training

Accelerate mobility

The National Institutes of Health has awarded Wayne State University $1,194,840 over five years to support predoctoral training in addiction neuroscience for selected students in their third and fourth years of graduate school.

The Ruth L. Kirschstein Institutional National Research Service Award (T32 DA0601399-01) from the National Institute on Drug Abuse supports TRAIN@wayne: Translational Research in Addiction and Integrative Neuroscience.

The program emphasizes the translational investigation of addiction neurobiology and exposure to state-of-the-art research methods and rigorous experimental design, complemented by robust career development and individualized mentorship. The predoctoral training helps address an urgent national need to equip the next generation of addiction researchers with the expertise, tools and techniques needed to advance discovery science and accelerate development of therapeutics to address substance addiction.

School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences Professor Mark Greenwald, Ph.D.; Professor Alana Conti, Ph.D.; and Professor David Ledgerwood, Ph.D., are the multiple principal investigators on the project, with Assistant Professor Eric Woodcock, Ph.D., serving as the program’s training director.

“We are all very eager to create a legacy by training the next generation of promising addiction neuroscientists,” Dr. Greenwald said. “Of course, we’re thrilled in several ways. First, to be able to bring a prestigious training grant to WSU is a mark of institutional success and commitment (e.g. it requires financial support by administration, because the NIH does not allow several types of costs). Second, we’re excited to be able to offer support to qualified students who wish to engage in rigorous research and training in addiction neuroscience. This is an incredibly timely and important field, as evidenced by the drug epidemic we’ve been experiencing in the United States. Third, being able to create a program that engages scholarly pursuit in a community of shared vision and values is gratifying. This will establish a new culture of inquiry and excellence. Finally, this program dovetails nicely with a broader range of neuroscience initiatives at WSU, which will be incorporated under the Ben L. Silberstein Institute for Brain Health. This program can act as a magnet to attract new faculty and students to WSU, and prepare our trainees for fulfilling careers in this field.”

TRAIN@wayne will emphasize three training areas: translational addiction neuroscience research, real-world clinical observation and career development. The latter two are especially emblematic of WSU’s Prosperity Agenda, accelerating mobility of students via engaging teaching methods and “learning by doing” experiences that cultivate the competencies that prepare graduates for successful careers.

The program will support two pre-doctoral students annually, selected in a competitive application process, for a two-year training period, starting with two students in their third year of graduate school. Training will draw from preclinical, clinical and research facilities at WSU and the expertise of 17 accomplished preceptors across five WSU departments in the areas of neuroimaging, neuropharmacology/drug administration, neurophysiology, neuromodulation, cellular and molecular neuroscience, and models of common addiction comorbidities, including brain injury and traumatic stress.

The program can support predoctoral trainees from any college or unit at WSU who are pursuing a career in addiction neuroscience.

Administrative support also comes from the WSU Graduate School, the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences chair and the Office of the Vice President for Research.

“This program will increase the reach of clinical and translational science education and will recruit a diverse cohort of predoctoral trainees to become the next generation of addiction scientists,” said Ezemenari Obasi, Ph.D., vice president for Research at Wayne State University. “I look forward to the important work that Drs. Conti, Greenwald, Ledgerwood and Woodcock will undertake with this critical training program.”

The program includes steering committee, internal advisory and external advisory committees. T32 faculty preceptors have academic affiliations in WSU’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center, the Department of Psychology and the Integrative Biosciences Center.

Motivated initially by Dr. Woodcock, the NIH award comes after nearly three years of regular discussion to conceptualize and organize the curriculum, solicit input from faculty and administration, recruit other preceptors and write the application.

“Building this program was a really heavy lift, and we are incredibly grateful for all the wise and constructive input and feedback from everyone,” Dr. Greenwald said.

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