Research at the Intersection of Academia, Government, and Industry

Winter 2014 | Article by Christina Carr

Jim Dillard

James E. Dillard
Senior Vice President,
Regulatory Affairs
Altria Client
Services Inc.

In 2011, the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced a comprehensive joint study to gauge the behavioral and health impacts of new government tobacco regulations. In order to qualify for funding from this initiative, investigators need to have considerable training in tobacco regulatory research.

Little is known about the long-term effects of new tobacco products, such as e-cigarettes and second-hand vapor exposure. Yet perhaps due to tobacco’s well-documented health risks or the stigma associated with accepting funds from tobacco companies, few scientists are entering the field.

In an attempt to bring early career investigators into the field, Altria Group is sponsoring research efforts at universities across the country. In November it granted $100,000 to the Tulane University School of Science and Engineering to support fellowships for graduate students whose research agenda advances regulatory science in the area of tobacco products.

Regulatory science generally comprises the development of tools, standards, and approaches to evaluate FDA-regulated products. In the realm of tobacco research, this includes a variety of strategies and analyses ranging from computational modeling and nicotine reduction, to the health effects of e-cigarettes and effective warning labels.

“Although public funding is dwindling in most areas of research, it continues to rise in the field of tobacco research,” says Jim Dillard, senior vice president in regulatory affairs at Altria. Dillard received his undergraduate and graduate degrees in biomedical engineering from Tulane. Dillard says the School of Science and Engineering graduate fellowships could be just the beginning of raising more awareness of tobacco research opportunities among scientists.

Corporations and government agencies provide a majority of the research funds at universities in the United States, including Tulane. Tulane applies the same strict ethical standards and integrity protocols to all industry-sponsored research, regardless of the company.

Dean Nicholas Altiero says he understands that accepting resources from tobacco companies is controversial.

“This decision was not made lightly,” says Altiero. “We spent two years discussing the pros and cons at the highest levels of Tulane leadership. Ultimately, this is about getting our best scientists in the relevant fields to do this important research.”

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