Notice of NIDA s Priorities for Human Genetics Research

Notice Number: NOT-DA-12-012

Key Dates

Release Date: March 27, 2012

Issued by

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)


This Notice communicates the NIDA’s evolving human genetics funding priorities to help the addiction genetics community maximally align their research with NIDA’s current strategic vision.

Multiple genes with relatively small effects, along with environmental and developmental factors, are likely to influence vulnerability to addiction. The design and genetic approach chosen for studying addiction phenotypes will determine the types of genetic variants that can be identified, the genetic associations that each one yields, and its relevance to the addiction phenotype. NIDA remains committed to a research program on the human genetics of substance abuse, and will continue to support human genetics research from discovery to application.

However, given the current budgetary climate and the increasing need to prioritize areas of research support, NIDA is taking the following steps:

1) Give higher programmatic priority for funding to those applications that:

  • Identify and/or characterize the mechanistic roles and/or clinical application of genetic variants that have previously been demonstrated to contribute to addiction
  • Propose targeted, whole-genome or -exome sequencing approaches. Note that applications proposing genome wide association studies (GWAS) may be given lower priority, and the applicant should indicate the rationale for why another approach was not chosen. For candidate gene approaches, the allele(s) under study should include supporting evidence, e.g. a direct functional effect on the biological pathway(s), or strong prior evidence that it is associated with the drug abuse phenotype
  • Use bioinformatics and computational approaches that will leverage and integrate existing datasets, such as data from dbGaP, 1000 Genomes, epigenomics, ENCODE, imaging resources, etc., to maximize information on a targeted genetic regions, or be used to develop novel phenotypes or biomarkers 
  • Discuss and/or include a replication approach

2) Ensure portfolio balance through a coordinated programmatic assessment of the design and genetic approach chosen for human genetics applications by the NIDA Genetics Coordinating Committee

3) Accept only a limited number of applications requesting direct costs of $500,000 or more per year in any project year.

Taking these factors into consideration, prospective applicants are strongly encouraged to discuss their planned applications with NIDA’s program staff during the early stages of application development to ensure that their application addresses these priorities.

For additional guidance on the types of information to include in human genetics of addiction applications, please see: and for guidance on phenotypic assessments


Please direct all inquiries to:

Joni Rutter, PhD
Acting Director, Division of Basic Neuroscience and Behavioral Research
6001 Executive Blvd
301.435.0298 (phone)
301.594.6043 (fax)