Health + Behavior

UCLA receives $5 million grant for sharing research on AIDS and substance abuse

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Gorbach and Ragsdale
Enrique Rivero/UCLA

Amy Ragsdale, left, and Pamina Gorbach, will lead the research team at UCLA.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse has awarded $5 million to researchers at UCLA to develop a resource and data center for millions of pieces of research, lab samples, statistics and other data aimed at boosting research into the effects of substance abuse on HIV/AIDS.

The five-year grant, called Collaborating Consortium of Cohorts Producing NIDA Opportunities, will connect groups of investigators with National Institute on Drug Abuse-funded research and data ranging from state-of-the-art bioinformatics to laboratory specimens, said Pamina Gorbach, professor of epidemiology at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and the principal investigator on the project.

“This consortium will allow researchers from across the United States and Canada to access an enormous amount of highly detailed datasets to use in research on HIV among substance-using populations,” said Gorbach, who is also a professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

Gorbach is also a principal investigator of one of the research groups within the consortium. Called the mSTUDY, this project assesses the impact of substance use on the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections among HIV-positive and high-risk HIV-negative men of color who have sex with men. This project collects biological specimens and demographic, clinical, laboratory and behavioral data on more than 500 men who have sex with men. Steven Shoptaw, a professor of family medicine at the Geffen School, is this project’s co-principal investigator.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse has created a group of researchers throughout North America to study how HIV affects, and is affected by, substance use. Their work covers the role that injection drug use has on the HIV epidemic, the effects of being simultaneously infected with HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C or cardiovascular disease, and more. The UCLA coordinating center will collect and maintain these data, serving as a virtual clearinghouse making them available to other groups of scientists.

The UCLA coordinating center will generate datasets and provide statistical support, scientific review and expertise; work out logistics for meetings and webinars; and address ethical considerations such as privacy and genomic research protections. It will also provide technical support and encourage data linkage and standardization across the research groups while interfering as little as possible with their work.

The coordinating center will also:

  • Describe and locate specimens and data available for sharing
  • Create and maintain a comprehensive catalog of all data collected by the research groups
  • Create a central storehouse for shareable data
  • Keep tabs on research progress
  • Make available data collection instruments, standard operating procedures, and other study management tools and documents
  • Disseminate research results online and in scientific meetings.

The consortium’s co-principal investigator is Suzanne Siminski, director of Frontier Science, Amherst, New York office. In addition to Gorbach, the UCLA team consists of study director Amy Ragsdale; core scientists Dr. Judith Currier, chief of the division of infectious diseases at the Geffen School; Ronald Brookmeyer, professor of biostatics at the Fielding School; and Dr. Grace Aldrovandi,  professor of pediatrics and chief of infectious diseases at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital.

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