Jeffery receives $2.3 million NIDA award

Assistant Professor Alvin Jeffery PhD’17, MS’21, has received a $2.3 million, five-year grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to develop technology that will use electronic health records to identify people who are likely to have substance use disorder. The specific application of the technology is to support genetic research across multiple organizations.

“Opioid and substance use disorders are not well documented, which gives geneticists a lot of trouble conducting research at the scale that they want to,” Jeffery says. “I’m excited to apply my informatics and clinical backgrounds to the work of creating a framework that allows health care providers in any organization to develop their own definition of substance use disorder—and then leverage data collected by multiple organizations to compare them equally across the different organizations.”

With the NIDA grant, Jeffery added machine learning scientists, computational linguists, statisticians, data scientists, software developers and geneticists to his team. The team also works with Vanderbilt’s Advanced Computing Center for Research and Education on the project.

“The software we’re developing will lend itself to use surrounding other psychiatric and mental health disorders, many of them manageable if not curable, but at least manageable if we can destigmatize them,” he says.