Avenir Award in Genetics and Epigenetics of Substance Abuse

About the Awards

NIDA’s Avenir Awards provide grants to early-stage investigators who propose highly innovative studies.  “Avenir” is the French word for “future”, and these awards represent NIDA’s commitment to supporting researchers who represent the future of addiction science. Awardees receive up to $300,000 per year for five years to support their projects. NIDA has two Avenir award programs, one for HIV/AIDS and another on the genetics and epigenetics of substance abuse.

2019 Genetics or Epigenetics Research Awardees

Erin S. Calipari, Ph.D.

Erin S. Calipari, Ph.D.

Vanderbilt University

Project: Making and breaking opioid memories to prevent relapse

More about Dr. Calipari


Shuo Chen, Ph.D.

Shuo Chen, Ph.D.

University of Maryland, Baltimore

Project: A Multivariate Mediation and Deep Learning Framework for Genome-Connectome -Substance Use Research

More about Dr. Chen

Past Awardees

2018 Genetics or Epigenetics Research Awardees

Mathieu Wimmer, Ph.D. 

Mathieu Wimmer, Ph.D.

Temple University of the Commonwealth

Project: Unraveling epigenetic mechanisms of opioid addiction susceptibility using multigenerational animal models

More about Dr. Wimmer

Kathryn D. Meyer, Ph.D.

Kathryn D. Meyer, Ph.D.

Duke University 

Project: Epitranscriptomic Regulation of Synaptic Responses to Drugs of Abuse

More about Dr. Meyer


Andreas Robert Pfenning, Ph.D.

Andreas Robert Pfenning, Ph.D.

Carnegie-Mellon University 

Project: Interpreting the regulatory mechanisms underlying the predisposition to substance use disorders 

More about Dr. Pfenning

Christina Woo, Ph.D.

Christina Woo, Ph.D.

Harvard University

Project: Precision pharmacology of the opioids

More about Dr. Woo


Jian Feng, Ph.D.

Jian Feng, Ph.D.

Florida State University

Project: Three Dimensional Chromosome Architecture in Drug Addiction

More about Dr. Feng

2017 Genetics or Epigenetics Research Awardees

Rohan Hugh Craig Palmer, Ph.D.

Rohan Palmer, Ph.D.

Emory University

Project: The Kinship Risk Score: An Integrative Tool to Prioritize Alcohol and Drug-Addiction Related Genes for Enhanced Risk Prediction

More about Dr. Palmer

Michael A. Crickmore, Ph.D.

Michael Crickmore, Ph.D.

Boston Children’s Hospital

Project: Mating behavior in Drosophila as a model for understanding and controlling aberrant dopaminergic responses

More about Dr. Crickmore

Jason Ernst, Ph.D.

Jason Ernst

University of California, Los Angeles

Project: Deciphering the Relationship between Substance Use and Psychiatric Disorders from Whole Genome Sequencing Data

More about Dr. Ernst

Elizabeth A. Heller, Ph.D.

Elizabeth A Heller, Ph.D.

University of Pennsylvania

Project: Chromatin-mediated alternative splicing in reward pathophysiology

More about Dr. Heller


Albert Keung, Ph.D.

Albert J. Keung

North Carolina State University, Raleigh

Project: The Epigenome in Substance Abuse Disorders: Engineering New Tools to Dissect Function from Form

More about Dr. Keung

Olivia Gabrielle Corradin, Ph.D.

Olivia Corridin

Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Project: Delineating genetic risk to addiction via analysis of 3D chromatin architecture

More about Dr. Corradin

2016 Genetics or Epigenetics Research Awardees

Ian S. Maze

Photo of Ian S. Maze

Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Ian Maze, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Departments of Neuroscience and Pharmacological Sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS) in New York City. Dr. Maze received his Ph.D. in Neuroscience from ISMMS in 2010, conducted postdoctoral training in the Laboratory of Chromatin Biology and Epigenetics at the Rockefeller University, and joined the ISMMS faculty in 2014. He has garnered international recognition for his work on neuroepigenetic mechanisms of drug abuse and depression, including the discovery that drug- and stress-mediated disruptions of repressive chromatin states in ventral striatum result in increased susceptibilities to both addiction and depression related phenotypes. His lab continues to investigate chromatin regulatory phenomena contributing to drug abuse, with an emphasis on relationships between a novel set of histone modifications recently discovered in the Maze laboratory and aberrant neuronal plasticity contributing to addictive-like behaviors.

Francesca Telese

Photo of Francesca Telese

University of California, San Diego School of Medicine

Francesca Telese, Ph.D., is an assistant professor at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD).  Dr. Telese received her Ph.D. at the University of Naples “Federico II,” conducted her postdoctoral research at the Department of Medicine at UCSD, and joined the faculty of the School of Medicine at UCSD in 2016. She has garnered international recognition for her work on the epigenetic signatures linked to learning and memory, including those regulated by the Reelin signaling pathway. Her current program of research focuses on the relationship between epigenetic signatures in specific neuronal subtypes and different brain behaviors, with an emphasis on the molecular effects of cannabis abuse.

2015 Genetics or Epigenetics Research Awardees

Jeremy J. Day, Ph.D.

Photo of Jeremy J. Day, Ph.D.

University of Alabama at Birmingham

Jeremy Day, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Neurobiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Dr. Day received his Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina, conducted postdoctoral training at UAB, and joined the faculty at UAB in 2014. He has garnered recognition for his work in the epigenetic basis of memory formation, including the discovery that the formation of reward-related memories requires epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA methylation. His lab continues to explore the relationship between epigenetic states and neuronal function, with an emphasis on the brain circuits that regulate motivated behavior.

Christie D. Fowler, Ph.D.

Photo of Christie D. Fowler, Ph.D.

University of California, Irvine

Christie D. Fowler, PhD is an assistant professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at the University of California, Irvine. Dr. Fowler received her PhD from Florida State University, conducted postdoctoral research at The Scripps Research Institute, and joined the faculty at UC Irvine in 2014. She has garnered international recognition based on her findings that nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in the medial habenula-interpeduncular pathway control the aversive properties of nicotine and thereby limit consumption of the drug. Her current research seeks to elucidate the extracellular epigenetic signaling mechanisms mediating nicotine aversion and reinforcement, with an underlying goal of identifying novel targets for therapeutic development.