Camden Institutions Partner to Research Genetic and Biological Factors to Fight Opioid Addiction

Opioid Addiction - text graphic abstractThe Coriell Institute for Medical Research, Cooper University Health Care and Cooper Medical School of Rowan University (CMSRU) are launching the Camden Opioid Research Initiative (CORI), a first-of-its-kind undertaking to investigate the genetic and biological factors that contribute to the development of opioid use disorder (also referred to as opioid dependence or addiction). Opioid overdoses continue to climb in New Jersey and nationally and the opioid addiction epidemic is one of the most urgent public health concerns of our time. This year is the deadliest year of this epidemic in the Garden State.

CORI will capitalize on Coriell’s expertise in genomics, biobanking and personalized medicine, Cooper University Health Care’s clinical infrastructure and expertise in treating opioid use disorder (OUD) patients, and Cooper Medical School of Rowan University’s reputation for scientific excellence in genetics, the neurosciences and addiction research. This combination of expertise promises to bolster the foundation of addiction genomics and provide a unique resource to researchers across the nation. Each of the CORI institutions is on the front lines of this battle and sees firsthand the impact OUD has on New Jersey and its citizens.

“Scientifically and geographically, this team is uniquely well positioned to undertake this effort. This investment in our state’s future speaks to the foresight and vision of the elected leaders of New Jersey and to the innovative scientists and physicians at these Camden institutions,” said Alissa Resch, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer at the Coriell Institute. “The knowledge gleaned from this work has the potential to save New Jersey families from the tragedy of opioid use disorder.”

“As the leading academic tertiary care health system and the only Level I Trauma Center in southern New Jersey, Cooper’s emergency department physicians see the destructive effects of the opioid crisis every day,” said Anthony J. Mazzarelli, MD, JD, MBE, Co-President Cooper University Health Care. “While Cooper has designed innovative clinical programs to combat opioid addiction, we believe this research will lead to the development of new weapons to aid our clinicians in the fight against this costly epidemic.”

Dr. Annette Reboli, dean of CMSRU, said, “Like the rest of the nation, New Jersey faces an opioid crisis. This initiative has the potential to define risk factors for opioid addiction and develop strategies to prevent people from developing opioid use disorder and to thereby save lives. This collaboration is perhaps one of the most important we could undertake for the health of so many at-risk individuals.”

CORI will use a three-pronged approach to its research. With the help of the county and state medical examiner’s office, a novel biobank of biological samples will be established and made available to qualified researchers studying opioid use disorder. These de-identified samples will be collected from individuals who have died as a result of overdose.

The CORI team also has established a pair of studies to investigate the genetic and non-genetic factors that underlie opioid use disorder.

The first study will focus on chronic pain patients. Participants enrolled in the study will have their DNA sequenced and will complete questionnaires about their health history. Using these data, CORI researchers will prepare reports for the participants’ physicians, detailing how their patients’ genetic makeup may influence their response to common opioids.

The second study will enroll patients currently participating in Cooper’s Addiction Medicine program who are receiving medication-assisted treatment for addiction. Medication-assisted treatment has proven to be a successful treatment for many patients and involves the supervised use of medications such as methadone, naltrexone or buprenorphine to treat OUD. This prospective research will analyze any common genetic signatures for patients who successfully achieve recovery and those who do not. It also will help determine which drug might be best suited for an individual’s medication-assisted treatment.

Alissa Resch, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer at the Coriell Institute; Louis Bezich, MBA., senior vice president of Strategic Alliances at Cooper University Health Care; and Annette Reboli, MD, dean of CMSRU, are the principals of the project. Stefan Zajic, PhD, a principal research scientist at Coriell, is the scientific lead for the project.

Funded through a three-year grant from the State of New Jersey, the CORI project will position New Jersey at the forefront of the effort to treat opioid use disorder and prevent overdose deaths. This initiative was the vision of Coriell’s late president and CEO, Michael F. Christman, PhD, who passed away at the end of 2017, before it came to fruition. Dr. Christman was highly regarded for his forward-thinking approach to personalized medicine and the promise it held for patient care.

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About the Coriell Institute for Medical Research

The Coriell Institute is a global leader in understanding how our personal genomes affect our health. Coriell is recognized as one of the world’s leading biobanks, distributing biological samples and offering research and biobanking services to scientists in 85 countries around the globe. Coriell is the trusted steward of world-renowned collections for the National Institutes of Health, disease foundations and commercial clients. A pioneer in genomics, Coriell is examining the utility of using personal genetic information in clinical care through the Coriell Personalized Medicine Collaborative research study. Scientists at Coriell are leveraging their expertise in genomics to develop new tools to prevent and treat opioid use disorder. The Institute is also unlocking the promise of induced pluripotent stem cells and their role in disease research and drug discovery. For more information, visit, like Coriell on Facebook or follow @Coriell_Science on Twitter.

About Cooper University Health Care

Cooper University Health Care, affiliated with Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, is a leading academic health system in the South Jersey and Philadelphia region. Cooper’s 7,000 employees manage more than 1.5 million patient visits annually to its hospital, MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper, and its more than 100 outpatient offices, urgent care centers, and ambulatory surgery center facilities. Cooper’s more than 630 employed physicians practice in more than 75 specialties and provide expert training to the medical professionals of the future while providing comprehensive, compassionate care to patients today. Cooper serves as South Jersey’s only Level I trauma center (Cooper University Hospital) and only Level II pediatric trauma center (Children’s Regional Hospital) and provides life-saving care to more than 5,000 critically ill and injured patients that are transferred annually from regional hospitals. From primary care to trauma to specialty care, Cooper provides patients with access to all the expertise they need in one health system. Learn more at

About Cooper Medical School of Rowan University

Cooper Medical School of Rowan University (CMSRU) is the only four-year, MD-granting school in southern New Jersey. Developed through a partnership between Cooper University Health Care and

Rowan University, CMSRU is a proudly mission-driven school focused on developing highly skilled and socially conscious physician leaders who value a patient-centered, team approach to health care. Its innovative curriculum provides students with small-group, self-directed learning and early and continuous patient care experiences, beginning the third week of medical school. CMSRU graduated its charter class in 2016. Currently, 375 medical students are enrolled and nearly 650 biomedical scientists, physicians, researchers and other medical professionals hold faculty appointments at CMSRU.

About Rowan University

Rowan University is a Carnegie-classified national doctoral research institution dedicated to excellence in undergraduate education. It offers bachelor’s through doctoral programs to more than 18,500 students through its campuses in Glassboro, Camden and Stratford, New Jersey. Home to Cooper Medical School of Rowan University and the School of Osteopathic Medicine, it is one of only three universities in the nation to grant both M.D. and D.O. medical degrees. In addition, Rowan comprises the William G. Rohrer College of Business; the Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering; the colleges of Communication & Creative Arts; Education; Humanities & Social Sciences; Performing Arts; and Science & Mathematics; the School of Health Professions; the School of Earth & Environment and the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Rowan is collaborating with regional leaders to create research and academic programs in health sciences. It has earned national recognition for innovation, commitment to high-quality, affordable education and developing public-private partnerships.

Contact for Alissa Resch, Ph.D.:

Paul Foster

Associate Manager, Public Relations

(856) 757-9710

Contact for Anthony J. Mazzarelli, M.D., J.D., M.B.E.:

Wendy Marano

Manager, Public Relations

(856) 382-6463

Contact for Annette Reboli, M.D.:

Sharon Clark

Director, Marketing and Public Relations

(856) 361-2825

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