New NIAAA Director to Address Annual Business Meeting

ASAM Medical-Scientific Conference attendees will have the opportunity to meet the newly appointed director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). George Koob, PhD, is the featured speaker at the ASAM Members Annual Business Meeting and Breakfast from 7 to 8:30 am Friday in Orlando Ballroom V-VI, Lower level.

Dr. Koob will oversee the NIAAA, which primarily funds alcohol-related research in a range of scientific areas, including genetics, neuroscience, epidemiology, prevention, and treatment. The NIAAA also coordinates and collaborates with other research institutions and federal programs on alcohol-related issues. Dr. Koob plans to make medication and behavioral treatment a priority.

“While I don’t expect there will ever be a pill that will cure all alcoholism, I do expect there will be medications that help people, much like we see in other major psychiatric disorders,” Dr. Koob said. “So, for one thing, I am going to be reaching out to the pharmaceutical companies to help us with medications development at NIAAA.”

Dr. Koob comes to his new position by way of the Scripps Research Institute, where he is on a leave of absence from serving as Chairman of the Committee on the Neurobiology of Addictive Disorders and Director of the Alcohol Research Center.

Dr. Koob’s early research interests were directed at the neurobiology of emotion, with a focus on the theoretical constructs of reward and stress. His contributions have led to the understanding of the anatomical connections of emotional systems and the neurochemistry of emotional function. Dr. Koob also is an authority on alcohol and drug addiction.

The NIAAA is the primary U.S. agency for conducting and supporting research on the causes, consequences, prevention, and treatment of alcohol abuse, alcoholism, and alcohol problems.

Other goals, Dr. Koob said, will be to understand the role of alcohol in organ pathology and develop effective prevention and treatment strategies for such pathology, develop improved approaches for the delivery of health services for alcohol disorders, and promote and recruit young investigators, women, and minorities to the alcohol field. The NIAAA plans to work with NIDA and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to integrate resources and expertise to advance substance use, abuse, and addiction science research, and public health outcomes.

“In the last five years, the NIAAA has been doing fantastic work. The NIAAA really has a leg up on addressing many of the problems we face in addiction medicine,” Dr. Koob said.