Collins, King Announce Nearly $200,000 to Support Drug Addiction Researcher Education at Jackson Lab

Washington, D.C. –U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King announced that The Jackson Laboratory (JAX) received a total of $192,349 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to train researchers for substance use disorder studies. This funding was awarded through HHS’ National Institute on Drug Abuse.


New, cutting-edge genetic and genomic approaches to understanding the biology of addiction hold promise for addressing the nation’s addiction crisis, which each year takes a terrible health, social, and economic toll, especially among minority populations. The new grant to JAX Professor and Ann Watson Symington Chair in Addiction Research Elissa Chesler, Ph.D., will fund a unique research and training experience that is designed to increase the diversity of next-generation scientists to study addiction.


Participating researchers from underrepresented minorities will first complete a customized, virtual mentored course designed to deliver foundational skills and knowledge in mammalian and systems genetics of addiction. Then, a subset of course participants will be invited to return to JAX with two trainees (post-doctoral, graduate, or undergraduate students) for an extended summer research experience mentored by hosting JAX faculty.


“In 2020, a record 502 Mainers died from overdoses, a tragic record that was fueled by the pandemic. We must continue to address the opioid epidemic as we respond to the ongoing public health crisis caused by COVID-19,” said Senators Collins and King in a joint statement. “The skilled researchers at Jackson Lab are making important strides to conquer substance use disorders that affect far too many Mainers. We welcome this continued investment to help scientists to better understand, prevent, and treat substance use and protect individuals, families, and communities across Maine.”


Researchers at The Jackson Laboratory are leading efforts to advance our understanding of the genetic factors involved in individuals’ vulnerability to substance use disorders. They use mouse models to investigate the genetics underlying the differences in addictive behaviors. Their work has identified genetic variants associated with addiction susceptibilities, providing vital insight into the biological basis for why some humans are at high risk for addiction.


A record 502 Mainers died from overdoses in 2020. In the 12 months ending in May 2020, more than 81,000 drug overdose deaths occurred nationally, the highest number ever recorded.