UofL awarded $14.4 million to develop tobacco regulatory science


    LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The University of Louisville has been awarded a total of $14.4 million and a UofL researcher will oversee another $8.9 million to help shape the manufacture, distribution and marketing of tobacco products as they are regulated by the FDA under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. The total amount awarded to and overseen by UofL is $23.3 million.

    An inter-agency partnership of the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration has awarded $3.7 million to Sanjay Srivastava, Ph.D., professor of medicine and Distinguished University Scholar at UofL, to study what, exactly, in tobacco products causes atherosclerosis with the goal of determining how the content of these constituents could be regulated in tobacco products.

    Another $10.7 million from the NIH/FDA partnership is to develop the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Tobacco Regulation and Addiction Center (A-TRAC) for multidisciplinary research to help shape the manufacture, distribution and marketing of tobacco products as they are regulated by the FDA. Aruni Bhatnagar, Ph.D., director of the Diabetes and Obesity Center and the Smith and Lucille Gibson Chair in Medicine at UofL, will co-direct the center.

    The $10.7 million award is part of a $19.6 million grant to create the A-TRAC. The remainder of the award from the NIH/FDA — $8.9 million — will go to Boston University, Emory University, Johns Hopkins University, New York University, Wake Forest University and the University of Mississippi.

    “These two grants bring together investigators from across the country to conduct research that will greatly increase the available knowledge on tobacco and its causative role in cardiovascular disease across the full spectrum of basic and applied research,” UofL President James R. Ramsey said. “The University of Louisville is both proud and well-positioned to help lead this effort.”

    About Bhatnagar’s grant: shaping the regulation of tobacco products

    The funding for the $10.7 million grant is part of a $19.6 million award to the AHA by the NIH/FDA partnership to create 14 Tobacco Centers of Regulatory Science (TCORS) nationwide. The A-TRAC is a virtual research center in the TCORS network that includes centers at Yale University, Penn State/Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, University of California-San Francisco, The Ohio State University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Southern California, University of Texas Health Sciences Center at Houston, University of Maryland, Virginia Commonwealth University, Georgia State University and University of Vermont. Two separate centers also have been funded at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

    The A-TRAC center will focus on the relationship between tobacco use and cardiovascular disease and support research in chemistry, toxicology, epidemiology, cardiovascular health and disease, communication and marketing. Research supported by the center will provide scientifically validated information to assist the FDA in developing evidence-based tobacco regulatory policy.

    Under the grant, Bhatnagar and AHA Chief Science Officer Rose Marie Robertson, M.D., will serve as co-directors of the center, which will support three projects examining the cardiovascular toxicity of tobacco products, cardiovascular injury due to tobacco use and the perception of tobacco use in vulnerable populations.

    Bhatnagar also will serve as the principal investigator on Project 2: Cardiovascular Injury Due to Tobacco Use, while Srivastava will head up Project 1: Cardiovascular Toxicity of Tobacco Products. The third project, Perception of Tobacco Use in Vulnerable Populations, will be led by Herman Taylor, M.D., of the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Several other faculty members from UofL will serve as co-investigators on the three projects.

    “Project 1 will help us gain better understanding of the specific substances in tobacco products that induce cardiovascular injury, while Project 2 will involve population-based studies at several sites to help identify which specific components and design features of tobacco products cause or accelerate cardiovascular disease,” Bhatnagar said. “Project 3 will aid in developing more effective communications campaigns about the dangers of tobacco products among those most at-risk for using them.”

    About Srivastava’s grant: examining the role of tobacco smoke in atherosclerosis

    The grant of $3.7 million was awarded directly to UofL by the NIH/FDA. In this project, Srivastava will examine the multitude of types and brands of tobacco products to help determine the effect of tobacco smoke in the development of atherosclerosis – the hardening and narrowing of the arteries that is a condition that underlies all cardiovascular disease.

    Atherosclerosis develops progressively, advancing slowly to block arteries and prevent blood flow. It is the usual cause of heart attacks, strokes and peripheral vascular disease, which collectively make up what is known as cardiovascular disease.

    “We know that smoke from tobacco products generates thousands of compounds, but we do not know which individual compound or group of compounds lead to atherosclerosis,” Srivastava said. “This research will help us begin to isolate those compounds and understand how each contributes to the condition.”

    These two new grants comprise the second multi-million-dollar award to the team in the past two months. On Aug. 13, UofL announced that the NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences awarded an $11.25 million “Center of Biomedical Research Excellence” grant to the Diabetes and Obesity Center, its second such grant since 2008.

    Jill Scoggins is Director of Communications at UofL's Louis D. Brandeis School of Law. She has been at UofL since 2010.