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Pharmacology Industry Collaboration

The Behavioral Pharmacology Research Unit (BPRU), one of the many research programs in the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment and Research,  offers expertise and resources for a broad range of clinical research related to assessing the behavioral effects of drugs.  These include:

  • Clinical trials of substance abuse treatments (for drugs, alcohol, & tobacco)
  • Drug abuse liability testing
  • Drug effects on cognitive function and performance.

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BPRU is an internationally recognized center of excellence in research on psychoactive drugs.Primarily supported by the NIH National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the unit has a strong history demonstrating the breadth and quality of its clinical research methods and productivity. The Unit pursues a broad range of treatment research initiatives aimed at reducing drug abuse and improving drug abuse treatment. As part of this mission, BPRU is committed to fostering industry partnerships with the goal of furthering the development of new medications that will contribute to the prevention and treatment of substance abuse.  BPRU has partnered with a number of pharmaceutical sponsors on drug development programs and the unit has the capability for conducting both outpatient randomized controlled trials as well as residential clinical pharmacology protocols.

A special focus at BPRU has been in the development of new medications that may be useful in the treatment of drug abuse. BPRU was instrumental in the development of buprenorphine for the treatment of opioid dependence. Buprenorphine is now a primary medication used for opioid dependence treatment in the U.S.  We have also worked with industry partners to develop smoking cessation and alcohol treatment medications and are active in searching for and developing treatments for cocaine dependence.

The non-medical use of prescription drugs is a major concern in the U.S.  Assessing the abuse liability of a drug candidate has become a critical step in the development process.  In addition, scheduling of a drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) is dependent upon the evaluation of the substance’s abuse liability. BPRU has vast experience in abuse liability testing, and cognitive and performance testing assessment of compounds including opioids, benzodiazepines, stimulants and other novel drug substances. BPRU faculty have published extensively both on the general principles of abuse liability assessment and on the abuse potential of specific substances.  Based on this experience we are able recommend the most effective and efficient strategy for the assessment of a compound’s abuse liability in support of a New Drug Application and appropriate scheduling under the CSA.

Inquiries can be directed to Joe Harrison, BPRU Senior Program Manager, at 410-550-3073 or at