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NIH Office of the Director (OD)

For Immediate Release
Friday, November 1, 2007

NIH News Media Branch

Statement by Dr. Norka Ruiz Bravo, Deputy Director for Extramural Research, National Institutes of Health

Violent and destructive acts carried out by extremists who object to the use of animals in research are a real and growing threat to public health. Important research that can improve and lengthen human life is seriously endangered by these attacks.

Dr. Edythe London has focused her research on understanding how chronic drug use affects brain function, particularly decision-making and control over behavior. Her goal is that information gleaned from basic research in animal models and clinical research in humans will inform the development of effective treatments for people suffering from drug abuse and addiction — a disease that causes devastation in families, communities and society as a whole.

To give an idea of the proportions (and urgency) of the public health problem Dr. London is working on:

  • An estimated 20.4 million Americans aged 12 and older were current (past-month) illicit drug users in 2006.
  • Nearly 50 percent of 12th graders will have tried an illicit drug by the time they graduate from high school.
  • Abuse and addiction to alcohol, nicotine, and illegal substances cost Americans upwards of half a trillion dollars a year, considering their combined medical, economic, criminal, and social impact.
  • Every year, abuse of illicit drugs and alcohol contributes to the death of more than 100,000 Americans, while tobacco is linked to an estimated 440,000 deaths per year.

Dr. London, motivated by the untimely death of her father from complications of nicotine dependence, has devoted some thirty years of her life to this work, much of that time as a senior scientist at the National Institutes of Health. "To me, nothing could be more important than solving the mysteries of addiction and learning how we can restore a person's control over his or her own life," she says in reflecting on the research that is put in jeopardy by terrorism of the sort directed against her.

Sadly, acts of terrorism against researchers and institutions that use animals have increased in recent times, even though using animals in research is critical to scientific understanding of biomedical systems, leading to useful drugs, therapies and cures. In fact, threats to research using animals threaten the health of the nation.

The Office of the Director, the central office at NIH, is responsible for setting policy for NIH, which includes 27 Institutes and Centers. This involves planning, managing, and coordinating the programs and activities of all NIH components. The Office of the Director also includes program offices which are responsible for stimulating specific areas of research throughout NIH. Additional information is available at http://www.nih.gov/icd/od/.

The Office of Extramural Research serves as the focal point for policies and guidelines for extramural research grants administration. This office has primary responsibility for the development and implementation of NIH Grants Policy, including peer review, monitoring of compliance with Public Health Service policy on Humane Use and Care of Laboratory Animals, coordination of program guidelines, and development and maintenance of the information systems for grants administration. Please visit its Web site for additional information: http://grants1.nih.gov/grants/oer.htm.

The National Institutes of Health (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. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

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