Tarran funded by FDA, NIH to establish Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science

UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine is one of 14 Tobacco Centers of Regulatory Science created by FDA, NIH. Research from new program to inform potential tobacco regulatory activities.

September 19, 2013 - Robert Tarran, PhD, associate professor of cell biology and physiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has been awarded approximately $4 million annually in funding for five years from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) today as part of an on-going interagency partnership. Through this grant, the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine becomes home to one of 14 Tobacco Centers of Regulatory Science (TCORS), which are receiving a total of up to $53 million for tobacco-related research in fiscal year 2013.

Despite decades of work to reduce tobacco use in the United States, it continues to be the leading cause of preventable death and disease. A new, first-of-its-kind regulatory science tobacco program, TCORS is designed to generate research to inform the regulation of tobacco products to protect public health. Using designated funds from FDA, TCORS will be coordinated by NIH’s Office of Disease Prevention, directed by David M. Murray, Ph.D., and administered by three NIH institutes—the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

“For the first time, under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, the federal government, through the FDA Center for Tobacco Products (CTP), is able to bring science-based regulation to the manufacturing, marketing and distribution of tobacco products,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D.  “The FDA is committed to a science-based approach that addresses the complex public health issues raised by tobacco product regulation.”  The agency is establishing science and research programs designed to increase understanding of the risks associated with tobacco use.

The TCORS program brings together investigators from across the country to aid in the development and evaluation of tobacco product regulations. Each TCORS application identified a targeted research goal. Taken together, the TCORS sites will increase knowledge across the full spectrum of basic and applied research on tobacco and addiction. The program also provides young investigators with training opportunities to ensure the development of the next generation of tobacco regulatory scientists.

“While we’ve made tremendous strides in reducing the use of tobacco products in the U.S., smoking still accounts for one in five deaths each year, which is far too many,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.  “FDA/NIH partnerships like the Tobacco Centers of Regulatory Science keep us focused on reducing the burden and devastation of preventable disease caused by tobacco use.”

Comprised of scientists with expertise in fields including epidemiology, behavior, biology, medicine, economics, chemistry, toxicology, addictions, public health, communications, and marketing, the TCORS program is the centerpiece of the FDA/NIH collaboration to foster research relevant to tobacco regulatory science. New research from TCORS will help inform and assess the impact of FDA’s prior, ongoing and potential future tobacco regulatory activities implemented by CTP under the direction of Mitch Zeller, J.D.  In addition, the TCORS investigators will have the flexibility and capacity to begin new research to address issues raised in today’s rapidly evolving tobacco marketplace.

The TCORS awards represent a significant investment in federal tobacco regulatory science, including $53 million in the first year and a potential total of more than $273 million over the next five years. TCORS funding may not exceed $4 million in total costs per year per center, and an investigator could request a project period of up to five years.

Designed to generate vital research in seven core areas, as well as ensure innovation in the field, the research supported by this initiative will provide scientific evidence within the following seven FDA tobacco-related research interest areas:

  • Diversity of tobacco products
  • Reducing addiction
  • Reducing toxicity and carcinogenicity
  • Adverse health consequences
  • Communications
  • Marketing of tobacco products
  • Economics and policies.

Dr. Tarran and colleagues will investigate the impact of tobacco exposure on the lungs' innate defense system and hydration. The liquids which line the surfaces of the lung are critical for the maintenance of lung health and there is strong evidence that a reduction in lung surface liquid volumes, i.e., “dehydration” can produce major disease. For example, airway hydration is vital for normal mucus clearance and dehydration reduces mucus clearance leading to inflammation and bacterial infection characteristic of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).  Tobacco-induced lung dehydration produces disease in 12+ million Americans with COPD and 64+ million people world-wide.  In this project, we will better understand which components of tobacco, and which new and emerging tobacco products impinge upon lung hydration and innate defense.  Data obtained in this project will be vital for directing new legislation aimed at limiting the development of harmful new and emerging tobacco products. 

Project leaders are Mehmet Kesimer, PhD, in the department of pathology and lab medicine, Claire Doerschuk, MD, in the department of medicine, and Ilona Jaspers, PhD, and Terry Noah, MD, in the department of pediatrics. Core leaders are Neil Alexis, PhD (pediatrics), Gary Glish, PhD (chemistry), and Scott Randell, PhD (cell biology and physiology). Dr. Randell will direct a Tissue Culture and Smoke Exposure Core. Co-investigators are Eduardo Lazarowski, PhD (medicine), Carla Ribeiro, PhD (medicine), David Hill, PhD (physics and astronomy), Beth Duncan, MD, PhD (medicine), Steve Tilley, MD (medicine), Ben Major, PhD (cell biology and physiology), Wanda O’Neal, PhD (medicine), Rebecca Fry, PhD (school of public health) and Ray Coakley, MB, BCh, BaO (medicine).

TCORS proposals were selected for funding based on their scientific and technical merit as determined by NIH scientific peer review, availability of funds, and relevance of the proposed projects to program priorities.

The other 13 TCORS have been awarded to:

  • Aruni Bhatnagar, Ph.D., and Rose M. Robertson, M.D., American Heart Association, Dallas
  • Pamela I. Clark, Ph.D., University of Maryland, College Park
  • Thomas E. Eissenberg. Ph.D., Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond
  • Michael P. Eriksen, Ph.D., Georgia State University, Atlanta
  • Stanton A. Glantz, Ph.D., University of California-San Francisco
  • Stephen T. Higgins, Ph.D., University of Vermont and State Agriculture College, Burlington
  • Robert C. Hornik, Ph.D., and Caryn Lerman Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
  • Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin, Ph.D., and Stephanie S. O’Malley, Ph.D., Yale University, New Haven
  • Joshua E. Muscat, Ph.D., and Jonathan Foulds, Ph.D., Penn State College of Medicine/Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Hershey
  • Mary Ann Pentz, Ph.D., and Jonathan Samet, M.D., University of Southern California, Los Angeles
  • Cheryl L. Perry, Ph.D., University of Texas Health Sciences Center, Houston
  • Kurt M. Ribisl, Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Peter G. Shields, M.D., and Mary Ellen Wewers, Ph.D. The Ohio State University, Columbus

For more information:

Media Inquiries:

FDA—Jenny Haliski, 301-796-0776, jennifer.haliski@fda.hhs.gov
NIH—Jody Engel, 301-402-9846, engeljo@mail.nih.gov

Consumer Inquiries: 888-INFO-FDA

FDA: Center for Tobacco Products
www.fda.gov/TobaccoProducts

Tobacco Centers of Regulatory Science (TCORS):
http://prevention.nih.gov/tobacco/tcors.aspx 

NIH: Office of Disease Prevention
http://prevention.nih.gov/default.aspx

NIH: Tobacco Regulatory Science Program
http://prevention.nih.gov/tobacco/default.aspx

FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit http://www.nih.gov.

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