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Three New Division Directors Named at NIAAA

Capping a year of transition during which NIAAA reorganized, three recent appointments have filled key remaining senior staff positions. Drs. Markus Heilig, Antonio Noronha and Mark Willenbring have been named to the positions of clinical director for the Division of Intramural Clinical and Biological Research, director of the Division of Neuroscience and Behavior (DNB), and director of the Division of Treatment and Recovery Research (DTRR), respectively.

Heilig will serve as both clinical director and chief of the Laboratory of Clinical and Translational Studies. He comes to NIAAA from the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden, where he had served since 2002 as chief of research and development in the division of psychiatry in the southern clinical neuroscience department. From 1997 to 2001, he directed an addiction medicine department at Karolinska that conducted preclinical and clinical research and research training in addiction medicine.


Dr. Markus Heilig
Heilig's research has focused on the neural mechanisms underlying motivation and emotion, with special emphasis on the stress response and anxiety, and on the neurobiological basis of drug and alcohol dependence. He is internationally recognized for his groundbreaking research on neuropeptide Y, a peptide with a major role in emotionality and alcohol-seeking behavior. Author of the standard addiction medicine textbook used in Sweden, Heilig has been an advocate for public education to remove the stigma of addiction and counter the popular perception that addiction is the product of a character defect.

Prior to NIAAA's reorganization in 2003, Noronha served as chief of the Neuroscience and Behavioral Research Branch (NBRB) in the former Division of Basic Research, a position he had held since 1999. From 1990 to 1999, he served in the NIAAA Office of Scientific Affairs as science review administrator for the neuroscience and behavior review subcommittee of the alcohol biomedical research review committee.

After earning a Ph.D. in neuroscience in 1982 from the Stritch School of Medicine at Loyola University in Chicago, Noronha conducted research on the biochemistry of myelin-associated glycoprotein, and on the role of cell adhesion molecules and other glycoconjugates in demyelinating disorders. His career at NIH began in 1982 at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, where he was a research fellow and then senior staff fellow in the Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology.


Dr. Antonio Noronha
During his tenure as NBRB chief, the branch developed several initiatives that have had a significant impact on the institute's neuroscience, behavior and genetics programs. Noronha was instrumental in initiating the Integrative Neuroscience Initiative on Alcoholism, a multidisciplinary consortium of research and investigators elucidating the neurobiological mechanisms underlying neuroadaptation to alcohol. He has also been involved in numerous trans-NIH initiatives, committees and Roadmap projects.

Willenbring comes to NIAAA from the University of Minnesota School of Medicine, where he served as professor of psychiatry. For the past 12 years, he also has served as medical director of the addictive disorders section at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Minneapolis. He received his M.D. from the University of Minnesota and did his internship at St. Paul-Ramsey Medical Center in St. Paul. He completed his residency in general psychiatry at the University of California, Davis, and an interdisciplinary social science research fellowship at the University of Wisconsin.


Dr. Mark Willenbring
Willenbring's research interests include pharmacotherapies for alcohol and other drug abuse, alcohol and tobacco, the treatment of co-occurring disorders, the interaction of treatment for alcohol use disorders and hepatitis C and turning research findings into clinical practice. He has published on topics ranging from medications for alcohol dependence and mental health disorders and psychoneuroendocrinology, to case management and service delivery, hepatitis C and implementation of evidence-based practice guidelines.


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