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Nicotine is Focus of Record Grant

Contact: Jill Holder

Photo of Michael Bardo, Linda Dwoskin, and Peter Crooks
From left: Michael Bardo, Linda Dwoskin, and Peter Crooks received a $6 million NIH grant to study new therapies for tobacco dependence. This is the single biggest grant ever for the UK College of Pharmacy.

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"I am especially pleased to see such a significant award from NIH to the College of Pharmacy. It is clear that many of the most compelling research areas will be at the intersection of disciplines, in this case pharmacy and psychology. I am confident that UK can continue to rise to the opportunity and respond to such scientific challenges and attract even more support from agencies such as the NIH."

-- Wendy Baldwin,
vice president for research,
University of Kentucky

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 13, 2003) -- The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a grant of more than $6 million to the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy to study new treatments for nicotine addiction. This is the largest single grant ever received by the UK College of Pharmacy.

UK College of Pharmacy professors Linda Dwoskin, Ph.D., and Peter Crooks, Ph.D., in collaboration with Michael Bardo, Ph.D., professor of psychology, College of Arts and Sciences, will conduct preclinical studies to develop new therapies for tobacco use cessation and for treatment of nicotine dependence.

"I am especially pleased to see such a significant award from NIH to the College of Pharmacy,” said Wendy Baldwin, Ph.D., UK vice president for research. “It is clear that many of the most compelling research areas will be at the intersection of disciplines, in this case pharmacy and psychology. I am confident that UK can continue to rise to the opportunity and respond to such scientific challenges and attract even more support from agencies such as the NIH."

“This funding from the NIH received by Drs. Dwoskin, Crooks and Bardo is an exemplary example of the valuable research being conducted at the University of Kentucky that will not only benefit the citizens of the Commonwealth, but people everywhere,” said Kenneth B. Roberts, Ph.D., dean, UK College of Pharmacy.

“We commend this research team for their pioneering innovation in nicotine research, their multidisciplinary approach in seeking novel therapies, and their dedication to furthering the field of pharmaceutical science,” Roberts said.

"This interdisciplinary partnership is an excellent example of how UK researchers from different disciplines work together to address the major health concerns in the United States," said Steven L. Hoch, dean, UK College of Arts and Sciences.

Tobacco use and nicotine addiction are linked to depression, and innovative drugs also may prove to be new treatments for depression. The researchers are taking an integrative approach to increase understanding of the underlying mechanisms of tobacco use and nicotine addiction, with a focus on pharmacotherapeutic drug development.

“In this study, we are changing the architecture of the nicotine molecule,” Crooks said.

“We will perform tests in the laboratory to see if the altered nicotine molecules alter brain chemistry and block the effect of nicotine,” Dwoskin said.

Tobacco smoking is the number one contributing factor to health problems in the United States, accounting for more illnesses and deaths than any other factor.

The major risk factor in the development of lung cancer is tobacco use, primarily by smoking cigarettes. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than breast, colon and prostate cancer combined.

The risk increases the longer a person has been smoking cigarettes. Despite the efficacy of current pharmocotherapies, such as nicotine replacement, tobacco-use relapse rates are high, indicating that novel medications are needed.

This grant is not only the single largest ever for the UK College of Pharmacy, but a true mark of success for the college. UK researchers were among several groups across the United States to compete for the grant. Nicotine addiction treatment is a highly competitive area of drug development.

“We have a great team, and we have all previously published together,” said Bardo, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse-funded UK Center for Drug Abuse Research Translation and a member of the Interdepartmental Neuroscience
Program on campus.

“I believe we are pioneers in the area of the development of these types of therapies,” Dwoskin said.

The team has partnered previously to study lobeline, an alkaloid from a plant commonly known as Indian tobacco, and its potential for treating drug abusers.

The UK College of Pharmacy in the only college of pharmacy in Kentucky and is ranked the number three pharmacy school in the nation by U.S.News & World Report’s “Best Graduate Schools.”


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