Camden Eds and Meds Partner for Opioid Addictions Research


Scientists from Coriell, Cooper, and Rowan hope a collaborative effort may help isolate genetic and non-genetic causes of opioid addiction.

By Matt Skoufalos | December 5, 2018

Cooper University Hospital in Camden. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

A trio of Camden City-based research institutions has begun collaborating on a long-term study designed to help identify factors that contribute to opioid addiction.

The Coriell Institute for Medical Research, Cooper University Health Care, and Cooper Medical School of Rowan University (CMSRU) describe the Camden Opioid Research Initiative (CORI) as “a first-of-its-kind undertaking” on the subject.

The three-year study is already underway.

Researchers will interview two patient groups at Cooper—those battling chronic pain, and those battling addiction. Coriell will analyze their genetic information, as well as that of donors who died from opioid use. Rowan neuroscientists Russell Buono, Thomas Ferraro, and Gonzalo Carrasco will direct the study.

Alissa Resch, Chief Scientific Officer at the Coriell Institute, said the data will help “build a more scientific and quantitative approach” to understanding opioid addiction.

“We’re really trying to look at the interplay between the genetic and non-genetic factors that explain opioid abuse disorder,” Resch said. “We’re letting the data speak for itself, and [seeing]  what kind of trends emerge.”

Alissa Resch, Chief Scientific Officer at the Coriell Institute. Credit: Coriell Institute.

Non-genetic components of addiction could include trauma, a lack of resources, a history of substance abuse, or other lifestyle factors that impair recovery, Resch said.

Genetic markers may emerge from a Coriell-built biobank of tissue samples collected from current patients as well as those who died from overdose.

Any findings could guide future policy decisions about a statewide concern, said Annette Reboli, epidemiologist and CMSRU dean.

“The problem deserves attention and coming to some solutions downstream,” Reboli said.

“Studies like this will have a very firm scientific basis for recommendations and things that clinicians implement.”

The research will educate medical students as well as practitioners, she said.

For all three participating institutions, the study would seem to affirm the promise of the “eds-and-meds” renaissance Camden leaders have long envisioned as the engine behind the rebirth of the city.

Annette Reboli, Dean of Cooper Medical School of Rowan University. Credit: CMSRU

“The skills of each of the organizations are well suited to the project, and it makes sense that we can give back to our community,” Resch said.

“Whatever results we get from the study, we can show them around the world, not just people in Camden.”

Reboli said the institutional expertise of each partner “strengthens the projects we’re doing.

“Our goal is to improve the lives of the citizens of this community and our broader South Jersey community,” she said.

“Whether it’s to advance research, clinical care, or education, if the parties collaborate, we’re much more likely to be successful than if we do these things alone.”

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