Daily Record Staff//June 2, 2023
//June 2, 2023
With a mission to address the rise in drug overdose deaths, the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) Friday announced plans to open the new $30 million Kahlert Institute for Addiction Medicine with a $10 million donation from the Kahlert Foundation.
An additional $10 million will come from the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB), $5 million will also be provided by UMSOM in addition to a commitment to raise an additional $5 million in philanthropic donations for the Kahlert Institute.
The new Kahlert Institute will bring together addiction experts in a shared research space to collaborate and create the synergy necessary for systemic change. UMSOM faculty will serve as an integral part of this Institute. They will include neuroscientists, studying the brain mechanisms underlying substance use and its lifelong consequences and clinical researchers investigating potential interventions in patient trials.
Institute members also will include substance use disorder specialists who understand the daily realities of caring for patients with complex disorders often involving psychiatric illness, trauma, and socioeconomic stressors.
“We need revolutionary progress in the area of addiction treatment and recovery. The Kahlert Foundation recognizes that to achieve radical innovation, you need to bring together the leading experts across multiple disciplines,” said Greg Kahlert, president of the Kahlert Foundation. “Millions of people are affected by addiction in this country, including the child of one of our team members at the Kahlert Foundation. We are hopeful that the Kahlert Institute for Addiction Medicine will discover new treatments that will save countless lives in the future. ”
Maryland alone has experienced a more than doubling in its rate of drug overdose deaths from 2015 to 2020 – from 21 deaths to 44 deaths per 100,000 people. This increase is one of the highest in the nation with an overdose death rate that is 50% higher than the national average. In Baltimore, 964 deaths were attributed to opioid overdose in 2020, nearly triple the number of deaths from homicide.
“There is not a person that I know who hasn’t been impacted by this opioid epidemic. It’s clear we need to do more,” said Kahlert Institute Associate Director Eric Weintraub, MD, professor of psychiatry and director of the Division of Addiction Research and Treatment at UMSOM. “One critical goal is to establish a collaboration between basic scientists in the field of addiction and clinicians who are treating patients. We need to work closely, put our heads together, and develop strategies for research and treatment that will be effective in the long term.”
Education will serve as a foundational pillar of the Kahlert Institute with inter-professional training on addiction treatment provided within the University system, as well as to the greater Maryland community.
Trainees will include community members and peer counselors as well as health professionals and UMB graduate students entering the medical field. The aim is to educate and increase the next generation of addiction counselors and health providers and to create a model that will serve as a national blueprint for community-academic partnerships.
The Kahlert Institute will create a central hub allowing multidisciplinary investigators to bring together their knowledge and accelerate innovation by sharing the same physical space. It will be located on a currently shelled floor of the new Health Sciences Research Facility Ill on the UMSOM campus with state of-the-art labs to accelerate fundamental and translational science, alongside a fully integrated space for clinical care, clinical research, and education.
Fundamental research will focus on developing and testing novel interventions, including behavioral therapies, drugs and innovative technologies to reduce cravings, drug use and the many complications of addiction. Faculty members also will conduct accelerated preclinical research to identify why certain individuals are more susceptible to addiction. Others will explore the cause of the high comorbidity between substance abuse disorders and neuropsychiatric diseases such as depression and schizophrenia. Fetal programming studies investigating how genes are expressed will aim to measure the impact of prenatal exposure to drugs and ways to reduce the long-term consequences.s