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2016-2020 NIDA Strategic Plan

Trans-NIH Initiatives

Collaborative Research on Addiction at NIH (CRAN)

The mission of the NIH partnership, Collaborative Research on Addiction at NIH (CRAN), is to provide a strong collaborative framework to enable NIDA, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to integrate resources and expertise to advance substance use and addiction research and to improve public health outcomes.

HIV/AIDS Research at NIH

The Office of AIDS Research (OAR) coordinates the scientific, budgetary, legislative, and policy elements of the NIH HIV/AIDS research program. Through its annual comprehensive trans-NIH planning, budgeting, and portfolio assessment processes, OAR sets scientific priorities, enhances collaboration, and ensures that research dollars are invested in the highest priority areas of scientific opportunity that will lead to new tools in the global fight against AIDS. New strategic priorities were announced in August 2015 that will guide NIH and NIDA funding related to HIV and AIDS research.

NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research

The NIH Blueprint is a collaborative framework that includes the NIH Office of the Director and the 15 NIH institutes (including NIDA) and centers that support research on the nervous system. By pooling resources and expertise, the Blueprint identifies cross-cutting areas of research and confronts challenges too large for any single institute or center. NIDA plays a lead role in a number of NIH Blueprint projects that contribute to our strategic goals and objectives:

  • The Human Connectome Project, an effort to map the connections within the healthy brain, is expected to help answer questions about how genes influence brain connectivity and how this, in turn, relates to mood, personality, and behavior. The investigators will collect brain imaging data and genetic and behavioral data from 1,200 adults. They are working to optimize brain imaging techniques to see the brain's wiring in unprecedented detail.
  • The Blueprint Neurotherapeutics Network is helping small laboratories develop new drugs for nervous system disorders. The Network provides research funding and access to millions of dollars’ worth of services and expertise to assist in every step of the drug development process, from laboratory studies to preparation for clinical trials. Project teams across the United States have received funding to pursue drugs for treatment of conditions from vision loss to neurodegenerative disease and depression. NIDA is coordinating a smoking cessation project utilizing orexin receptor antagonists.
  • The Neuroscience Information Framework (NIF), which NIDA led the effort to establish, is an online portal for neuroscience information that includes a customized search engine, a curated registry of resources, and direct access to more than 100 online databases. NIF advances neuroscience research by enabling discovery and access to public research data and tools worldwide through an open-source, networked environment.
  • Blueprint Training Initiatives, for which NIDA has also taken a leadership role, provide support for undergraduate and graduate student research training in the areas of computational neuroscience and multimodal neuroimaging. These two programs were extended for another funding round due to their demonstrated highly successful outcomes.

The Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative

The BRAIN initiative, launched by President Obama in 2013, is a coordinated effort among public and private organizations aimed at revolutionizing our understanding of the human brain. Significant breakthroughs in how we treat neurological and psychiatric disease will require a new generation of tools to enable researchers to investigate the functions of the brain in much greater detail and at faster speeds. This initiative will accelerate technology development at the intersections of nanoscience, imaging, engineering, informatics, and other rapidly emerging fields of science to achieve this goal.

NIH Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) Initiative

The Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) Initiative is a trans-NIH initiative established to enable biomedical research as a digital research enterprise, to facilitate discovery and support new knowledge, and to maximize community engagement. BD2K is working to enhance the utility of biomedical Big Data by:

  • Facilitating broad use of biomedical data by making them discoverable, accessible, and citable
  • Conducting research to develop methods, software, and tools to analyze biomedical Big Data
  • Enhancing training necessary for biomedical Big Data science
  • Supporting a data ecosystem that accelerates discovery as part of a digital enterprise

The NIH Common Fund

The NIH Common Fund provides a strategic and nimble approach to address key roadblocks in biomedical research that impede basic scientific discovery and its translation into improved human health, and to capitalize on emerging opportunities to catalyze the rate of progress across multiple biomedical fields. The Common Fund supports 32 programs; NIDA plays key roles in:

  • The Epigenomics Program. This program is aimed at generating new research tools, technologies, and data sets to accelerate our understanding of how genome-wide chemical modifications to DNA and DNA-associated proteins regulate gene activity without altering the DNA sequence itself, and what role these modifications play in health and disease.
  • The 4D Nucleome Program. It is estimated that each human cell contains approximately 2 meters (6.5 feet) of DNA, squeezed inside the cell’s microscopic nucleus in tightly controlled arrangement. This program aims to develop technologies, resources, and data to understand the principles underlying the organization of DNA in space and time, the role nuclear organization plays in gene expression and cellular function, and how changes in nuclear organization affect normal development as well as various diseases.
  • The Genotype-Tissue Expression Program. This program examines human gene expression and regulation in multiple tissues, providing valuable insights into the mechanisms of gene regulation. Genetic variation between individuals will be examined for correlation with differences in gene expression level to identify regions of the genome that influence if and how much a gene is expressed. These types of studies are important for determining the role that genetics plays along the substance use disorder (SUD) trajectory.
  • The Illuminating the Druggable Genome Program. The goal of this program is to improve our understanding of the properties and functions of proteins that are commonly targeted for drug development: G-protein-coupled receptors, nuclear receptors, ion channels, and protein kinases. The program is creating a data resource center that will catalog known information about these proteins to help identify and prioritize targets for further study, and it will develop the technologies necessary to elucidate their function.
  • The Extracellular RNA Communication Program. This program aims to discover fundamental biological principles about the mechanisms of extracellular ribonucleic acid (exRNA) generation, secretion, and transport; to identify and develop a catalog of exRNAs found in normal human body fluids; and to investigate the potential for using exRNAs in the clinic as therapeutic molecules or biomarkers of disease.
  • The Science of Behavior Change Program. This program seeks to promote basic research on the initiation, personalization, and maintenance of behavior change. Unhealthy behaviors—such as smoking, drug and alcohol abuse, overeating, and a sedentary lifestyle—account for approximately 40 percent of the risk associated with preventable premature death in the United States. By integrating work across disciplines, this effort seeks to improve our understanding of basic mechanisms of human behavior change across a broad array of health-related behaviors and to use this knowledge to develop more effective behavioral interventions.

The NIH Pain Consortium

The NIH Pain Consortium was established to enhance pain research and promote collaboration among researchers across the many NIH institutes and centers that have programs and activities addressing pain. The Pain Consortium works to develop a comprehensive multidisciplinary pain research agenda for the NIH and to increase visibility for pain research both within NIH and with external stakeholders.

Marijuana Research at NIH

Interest in the potential therapeutic effects of marijuana and its constituents has been growing rapidly, partially in response to media attention surrounding the use of cannabidiol (CBD) in young children with intractable seizure disorders.127 To date, 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medicinal use; another 15 states have specifically legalized CBD for medicinal use. While there is significant preliminary research supporting the potential therapeutic value of marijuana-derived compounds for a number of conditions, there is not yet sufficient evidence to support new drug approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. There is a pressing need for rigorous clinical research in this area.

As part of NIDA’s mission, we support research on both the adverse effects of marijuana use and the potential therapeutic value of marijuana and its components for the treatment of SUDs and pain. Research on the therapeutic potential for other health conditions is supported by other NIH institutes as it aligns with their mission. For example, the efficacy of marijuana-derived compounds, such as CBD, for the treatment of epilepsy is studied by the National Institute on Neurological Disorders and Stroke; potential uses in cancer treatment are studied by NCI; and so on. NIDA provides marijuana for research through the NIDA Drug Supply Program and will continue to coordinate with other NIH institutes and centers to support research in this area. For example, in 2015 NIDA partnered with six other NIH institutes to develop a program announcement on developing the therapeutic potential of the endocannabinoid system for pain treatment.