Daniele Piomelli, Louise Turner Arnold chair in neurosciences and professor of pharmacology at the University of California, Irvine, is the recipient of one of the first-ever National Institute on Drug Abuse Avant-Garde Awards for Innovative Medication Development Research. Piomelli will receive $500,000 per year for five years to support his research.
Piomelli plans to use the award to pursue a medication for smoking cessation using a novel approach of targeting the endogenous cannabinoid system. He will identify and optimize compounds that inhibit an enzyme called fatty acid-amide hydrolase, which degrades the endocannabinoid anandamide. Animal studies have shown that blocking FAAH reduces nicotine self-administration and prevents nicotine-induced reinstatement, a model of relapse.
“Science has clearly shown that drug addiction results from profound disruptions in brain structure and function, presenting numerous potential targets for medications development— yet, few medications have come to fruition,” said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow. “The array of creative problem-solving approaches submitted by the awardees could help us quicken the pace to find urgently needed medications for addiction.”
Photo credit: University of California, Irvine.
National Institutes of Health Director Francis S. Collins announced the appointment of Lawrence A. Tabak as principal deputy director of the National Institutes of Health.
Tabak assumes the position held by Raynard Kington, who served as NIH deputy director since 2003, as well as acting NIH director from October 2008 to August 2009. Kington is leaving the NIH to become the president of Grinnell College.
“I am delighted to have Dr. Tabak as deputy director during this critical time for biomedical research,” said Collins. “His outstanding service in numerous activities across the NIH and combination of skills and experience will help the NIH move forward in these revolutionary times for the biomedical sciences.”
Tabak has served as the director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research since September 2000. He served as acting NIH deputy director in 2009 and, most recently, as the acting director of the Division of Program Coordination, Planning and Strategic Initiative.
Tabak’s major research focus has been on the biosynthesis and function of mucin-glycoproteins, molecules that are decorated heavily with sugars and help form the coating that protects the delicate inner soft (mucosal) tissues of the body.