NIAAA Director Discusses New Strategic Plan

The Friends of the National Institute for Alcohol Addiction and Alcoholism (NIAAA) held its annual meeting on June 17. Dr. George Koob, the institute’s director, shared remarks about the agency’s new strategic plan, highlighting its vision for treating alcohol addiction.  This is the Director’s second time this year addressing the Friends of NIAAA, as he previously introduced their congressional briefing: “Preventing Alcohol Misuse: Research to Improve and Save Lives,” which we wrote about previously


According to Dr. Koob, NIAAA received a total of $597.1 million in FY24, an increase of $500,000 from FY23. This makes for an essentially flat budget, when factoring inflation into the equation.  A noteworthy change in FY24’s appropriations, however, is the pay increase of 4 percent for predoctoral trainees and 8 percent for postdoctoral scholars – NIH’s largest raise in pay since 2017.  

Strategic Plan 

Dr. Koob presented the agency’s four research goals which will guide NIAAA’s research: 

  1. Elucidating the biological mechanisms and consequences of alcohol misuse. 
  1. Identifying the patterns, trends, and public health impact of alcohol misuse. 
  1. Preventing alcohol misuse and associated consequences.  
  1. Improving and expanding treatment of alcohol misuse and related conditions. 

The strategic plan’s cross-cutting themes bolster these four research goals by focusing on important emerging topics.  NIAAA’s “advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility,” theme, for example, seeks to give more opportunities to communities underrepresented in the scientific workforce.  New this year, Alcohol Research Centers will be required to submit a formal plan to enhance diverse perspectives in research proposals. NIAAA also invites more research to understand how social determinants of health – including discrimination, homelessness, and difficult childhood experiences – contribute to alcohol misuse.   

Another cross-cutting theme is “advancing research in women’s health.”  This includes the Model Continuums of Care Initiative (MCCI) which utilizes, among other approaches, a focus on behavioral health to fulfill women’s healthcare needs.  The 2024-208 strategic plan places a greater emphasis on tailoring interventions to meet the needs of women than the 2017-2021 plan, as recent data shows that women are drinking at higher rates.  In addition to these, NIAAA is investing in research on alcohol use in older adults; looking at the whole person and integrated approaches to health; using data science to accelerate innovations; and studying fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).  For FASD, one objective is to reduce stigma surrounding it.  For research on older adults, NIAAA is working with the National Institute on Aging (NIA), to examine the effects of cognitive decline and behavioral consequences associated with alcohol misuse in the elderly.  Relating to treating the whole person theme, NIAAA seeks to track how barriers to care influence alcohol use disorder.  Finally, the institute will look into machine learning techniques to provide real time analysis and visualization of research findings, as AI represents a useful opportunity for researchers. 

Dr. Koob concluded his presentation with a question-and-answer session.  Attendees asked about topics such as best practices for mitigating alcohol use in youth; opportunities for underrepresented communities in research; and the impacts of poly-substance use.  The meeting was met with enthusiasm for NIAAA’s path forward by attendees. 

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