Public Release: 

UTHealth awarded $20 million to launch Tobacco Regulatory Science Center

University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston


IMAGE: Cheryl L. Perry, Ph.D., is a principal investigator and director of the Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science on Youth and Young Adults. view more

Credit: UTHealth

HOUSTON - (Sept. 19, 2013) - The University of Texas School of Public Health has received $20 million in funding from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) today as part of an ongoing interagency partnership. The UT School of Public Health Austin Regional Campus, part of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), is one of 14 Tobacco Centers of Regulatory Science (TCORS) that are receiving a total of up to $53 million for tobacco-related research in fiscal year 2013.

Despite decades of work to reduce tobacco use in the United States, it continues to be the leading cause of preventable death and disease. A new, first-of-its-kind regulatory science tobacco program, TCORS is designed to generate research to inform the regulation of tobacco products to protect public health. Using designated funds from the FDA, TCORS will be coordinated by NIH's Office of Disease Prevention, directed by David M. Murray, Ph.D., and administered by three NIH institutes--the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

"For the first time, under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, the federal government, through the FDA Center for Tobacco Products (CTP), is able to bring science-based regulation to the manufacturing, marketing and distribution of tobacco products," said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. "The FDA is committed to a science-based approach that addresses the complex public health issues raised by tobacco product regulation." The agency is establishing science and research programs designed to increase understanding of the risks associated with tobacco use.

The TCORS program brings together investigators from across the country to aid in the development and evaluation of tobacco product regulations. Each TCORS application identified a targeted research goal. Taken together, the TCORS sites will increase knowledge across the full spectrum of basic and applied research on tobacco and addiction. The program also provides young investigators with training opportunities to ensure the development of the next generation of tobacco regulatory scientists.

"While we've made tremendous strides in reducing the use of tobacco products in the United States, smoking still accounts for one in five deaths each year, which is far too many," said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. "FDA/NIH partnerships like the Tobacco Centers of Regulatory Science keep us focused on reducing the burden and devastation of preventable disease caused by tobacco use."

The funding that the School of Public Health received will establish the Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science on Youth and Young Adults, a collaboration including The University of Texas at Austin and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Cheryl L. Perry, Ph.D, is principal investigator and director of the Center.

"Nearly all first tobacco use occurs by age 18, with 1 out of 5 high school seniors still smoking cigarettes," said Perry, professor and regional dean of the UT School of Public Health Austin Regional Campus and The Rockwell Distinguished Chair in Society and Health. "It is excellent that the FDA and NIH have funded Centers that will get to fundamental issues around the marketing of tobacco products. This research means that future regulations will be based in scientific fact."

"The overall goal is to create a program of research and training that focuses on tobacco use among young people. The research includes surveillance of adolescents and young adults in Texas, and of marketing activities of the tobacco companies. We are focusing on Texas because 1 out of 10 children in the United States live in Texas, and Texas is the No. 1 recipient of tobacco industry marketing among all states," said Roberta Ness, M.D., M.P.H, dean of the School of Public Health. "The Center will inform the FDA with timely data on youth and young adults, so that future regulations will be based on this science, with the outcome of future generations of healthier young people."

Comprised of scientists with expertise in fields including epidemiology, behavior, biology, medicine, economics, chemistry, toxicology, addictions, public health, communications and marketing, the TCORS program is the centerpiece of the FDA/NIH collaboration to foster research relevant to tobacco regulatory science. New research from TCORS will help inform and assess the impact of FDA's prior, ongoing and potential future tobacco regulatory activities implemented by CTP under the direction of Mitch Zeller, J.D. In addition, the TCORS investigators will have the flexibility and capacity to begin new research to address issues raised in today's rapidly evolving tobacco marketplace.

The TCORS awards represent a significant investment in federal tobacco regulatory science, including $53 million in the first year and a potential total of more than $273 million over the next five years. TCORS funding may not exceed $4 million in total costs per year per center and an investigator could request a project period of up to five years.

Designed to generate vital research in seven core areas, as well as ensure innovation in the field, the research supported by this initiative will provide scientific evidence within the following seven FDA tobacco-related research interest areas:

  • Diversity of tobacco products
  • Reducing addiction
  • Reducing toxicity and carcinogenicity
  • Adverse health consequences
  • Communications
  • Marketing of tobacco products
  • Economics and policies.

TCORS proposals were selected for funding based on their scientific and technical merit as determined by NIH scientific peer review, availability of funds, and relevance of the proposed projects to program priorities.

The other 13 TCORS have been awarded to:

  • Aruni Bhatnagar, Ph.D., and Rose M. Robertson, M.D., American Heart Association, Dallas
  • Pamela I. Clark, Ph.D., University of Maryland, College Park
  • Thomas E. Eissenberg. Ph.D., Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond
  • Michael P. Eriksen, Ph.D., Georgia State University, Atlanta
  • Stanton A. Glantz, Ph.D., University of California-San Francisco
  • Stephen T. Higgins, Ph.D., University of Vermont and State Agriculture College, Burlington
  • Robert C. Hornik, Ph.D., and Caryn Lerman Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
  • Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin, Ph.D., and Stephanie S. O'Malley, Ph.D., Yale University, New Haven
  • Joshua E. Muscat, Ph.D., and Jonathan Foulds, Ph.D., Penn State College of Medicine/Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Hershey
  • Mary Ann Pentz, Ph.D., and Jonathan Samet, M.D., University of Southern California, Los Angeles
  • Kurt M. Ribisl, Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Peter G. Shields, M.D., and Mary Ellen Wewers, Ph.D. The Ohio State University, Columbus
  • Robert Tarran, Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, School of Medicine.


For more information:

FDA: Center for Tobacco Products

Tobacco Centers of Regulatory Science (TCORS):

NIH: Office of Disease Prevention

NIH: Tobacco Regulatory Science Program

FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation's food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

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