The National Institute on Drug Abuse has awarded a five-year, $6.6 million grant to the University of Texas Medical Branch to establish the Translational Addiction Sciences Center.

The center will investigate the mechanisms underlying addiction with the goal of discovering and validating novel treatment options.

Substance addiction can have disastrous personal, economic and social consequences and continues to be one of the world’s most serious public health problems.

While addiction and associated medical problems are treatable, there is a great opportunity to optimize new therapeutics, particularly for cocaine addiction.

As such, the advances in treatment options made by this team of scientists, led by principal investigator Kathryn Cunningham, are poised to impact clinical care of patients.

“Our goals are to identify targets within the brain serotonin system involved in relapse to cocaine use, to design new molecules that selectively affect these targets and to validate these new molecules as potential medications to extend abstinence from cocaine use,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham said she believes their research will be successful in jump-starting a new generation of discovery for treatments to help prevent relapse in individuals suffering from cocaine addiction.