Dr. Dan Werb named Director of the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy; wins inaugural $1.5 million Avenir Award from US National Institute on Drug Abuse

Toronto, Canada —  Dr. Dan Werb has been named Director and Scientific Board Chair of the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy (ICSDP), an international network of scientists seeking to improve the health and safety of communities and individuals affected by illicit drugs.

“I’m honoured and excited to lead the ICSDP’s talented group dedicated to using evidence to help governments develop policies that will improve the lives of those with HIV and/or addiction,” said Dr. Werb, who has a PhD in epidemiology and is a scientist with the Centre for Research on Inner City Health of St. Michael’s Hospital.

Dr. Werb, a co-founder of the ICSDP, will operate the ICSDP out of its new headquarters in Toronto, within St. Michael’s Hospital.

Dr. Werb was also one of six researchers recently named an inaugural recipient of the Avenir Award, a prestigious US$1.5 million research grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Avenir means “future” in French and the Avenir Award supports early-stage investigators who propose highly innovative studies for HIV/AIDS or genetics and epigenetics research. According to the National Institutes of Health, recipients are researchers who show promise of being tomorrow's leaders in the field.

Dr. Werb’s Avenir Award-funded project is called PRIMER, which stands for Preventing Injecting by Modifying Existing Responses.

“For too long, the goals of preventing addiction have seemed at odds with efforts to treat this condition,” said Dr. Werb. “While public health programing, such as methadone clinics and supervised injection sites, are aimed at reducing harm for those with addictions, PRIMER will determine whether engaging people who inject drugs in these existing public health treatment programs can also prevent others from being exposed to injecting, and thereby reduce the risk that they begin to inject in the first place.”

The study will be carried out over five years by an international team of researchers across six cities: Vancouver; San Diego, Calif.; Tijuana, Mexico; and Paris, Marseille and Bordeaux, France.

PRIMER is the first to extend the HIV Treatment as Prevention® (TasP®) model – pioneered by the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE) – in order to control the spread of addictive behaviours like injection drug use. 

“I am thrilled Dr. Werb will be extending the work that we have started with TasP®,” said Dr. Julio Montaner, past President of the International AIDS Society and Director of the BC-CfE. “We have demonstrated HIV epidemics can be controlled by expanding immediate and universal treatment coverage to those infected. Dr. Werb’s approach, which adapts this premise to socially communicable conditions like addiction, is highly innovative and represents the future of drug abuse prevention.”

About St. Michael’s Hospital
St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.

For more information or to arrange a media interview, please contact:
Nazlee Maghsoudi
Knowledge Translation Manager, ICSDP
+1 (647) 694-9199
nmaghsoudi [at] icsdp.org

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