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$1m for Massey research into nicotine addictiveness

Dr Penny Truman has been awarded almost $1 million in funding for research that will test the addictiveness of compounds contained in nicotine.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has awarded Dr Penny Truman almost $1 million in funding, as part of the 2019 Endeavour Fund.

Dr Penny Truman

Dr Penny Truman, School of Health Sciences.

Dr Penny Truman, from Massey University’s School of Health Sciences, has been awarded almost $1 million in funding for research that will test the addictiveness of compounds contained in nicotine.

Instead of increasing the pressure on smokers to quit, Dr Truman says it is important quitting is made easier for those who are addicted.

“There are chemical compounds in tobacco smoke, called monoamine oxidase inhibitors, that enhance nicotine's addictiveness,” she says.

“Our first step will be to confirm which of these compounds affect how addictive nicotine is. Then we will test ways in which to use these chemicals to make a new and improved version of nicotine replacement therapy, in either inhaler or vape form.

“We suspect the same compounds may also be effective in treating anxiety, depression and Parkinson’s disease and we can test this at the same time.”

The funder, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment Endeavour Fund, supports projects that have a high potential to benefit New Zealand or transform its future.

Dr Truman’s study is funded under a Smart Ideas grant, which is for investments in promising, innovative research ideas with high potential for benefits for New Zealand, and to refresh and diversify the science portfolio.

She will lead her study, Monoamine oxidase inhibitors from tobacco smoke: from Nicotine Replacement Therapy to Tobacco Replacement Therapy, with a team of behavioural scientists, chemists and biochemists from Victoria University of Wellington.

“Our development of an effective cure for smoking has the potential to be a world-wide game-changer for New Zealand's burgeoning pharmaceutical industry, with vast economic and health benefits for all people battling with smoking addiction,” she says.

“The success of this project to date, and in obtaining this funding, is due to the great team I have been working with.”

College of Health Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane Mills says Dr Truman’s study has the potential to build the evidence base about the effect of tobacco smoke. “Understanding these component parts is vital in order to develop effective therapies to help people quit smoking. The College of Health is firmly committed to reducing the harm caused by smoking and congratulate Dr Truman on her innovative grant application aimed at achieving this goal.”

The study will be carried out over three years.

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