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Inaugural Proposition 56 funding supports innovative research into the prevention, detection and potential cures of life-threatening diseases caused by tobacco use

The Tobacco Related Disease Research Program (TRDRP) has now funded two rounds of research grants drawing from Proposition 56, a 2016 voter initiative to increase state tobacco taxes. One hundred eighteen investigator-initiated grants totaling more than $80 million dollars were selected for funding in the 2018 cycle. In keeping with past TRDRP practice, grants were selected for funding after being rigorously reviewed by peer scientists from institutions outside of California. “We had a phenomenal response to our first year of awarding Proposition 56 funds”, said Bart Aoki, PhD, Director of TRDRP, “the review process was very competitive, and we are excited to launch the selected projects.”

While smoking has been steadily declining in the developed world, it continues to persist especially in minority communities, disproportionately affecting their health and wellbeing. At the same time, new tobacco products, such as different types of electronic (e-) cigarettes, continue to be developed; and though they are advertised as healthier alternatives to combustible cigarettes, very little is actually known about their effects on individual's tobacco use patterns and health. Add to that the expanding use of cannabis following legalization in California, and the complexity of co- or multi-use of different delivery devices and different substances is evident. TRDRP has a special interest in addressing these persistent (health disparities) and emerging (e-cigarettes and cannabis) issues, and the projects funded in the 2018 cycle significantly contribute to TRDRP's portfolio in these areas.

The research grants in 2018 A and B were awarded in TRDRP’s eight research priority areas, reflecting a commitment to address all aspects of tobacco use from understanding the basic mechanisms that drive tobacco-related diseases, to developing better methods for preventing, detecting and curing them:

Research Priority



2018 Total (A+B)

Cancer Prevention, Treatment and Biology




Cardiovascular and   Cerebrovascular Disease




Environmental Exposure and   Toxicology




Neuroscience of Nicotine Addiction and Treatment




Oral Disease and Dental Health




Pulmonary Biology and Lung   Diseases




State and Local Tobacco Control Policy Research




Tobacco-Related Health Disparities








The grants from this first year of Proposition 56 funding were awarded to twenty-four California institutions. These institutions ranged from community groups such as the Chinese Community Health Resource Center, for a cessation intervention targeted specifically at Chinese-Americans, to traditional research institutions like Stanford, The University of Southern California (USC), the California Institute of Technology and several University of California campuses.

Thirty-six of the grants went to early-career researchers in a bid to grow the pipeline of tobacco-related disease researchers in California. A grant to graduate student Patricia Escobedo at USC supporting “Spatial Analysis of Tobacco Outlets, Vape Shops and Cannabis Retailers” will produce research to support evidence-based policy making at the state and local levels. A grant to postdoctoral researcher Pritam Sinha Roy at Stanford University will shed light on how genetics may influence the effect of chemical exposure from e-cigarettes on the heart. One of the New Investigator Awards, limited to researchers with less than five years of independent research experience, will provide Tien Peng of UCSF with the support needed to understand specific molecular events that go awry in tobacco-induced emphysema, laying the groundwork for developing new therapeutic approaches that could help correct such molecular abnormalities in the lungs of patients with this debilitating disease.

TRDRP is currently finalizing the 2019 Request for Proposals and expects to release it on Monday July 16, 2018.  More details on 2018B grantees will be posted after awards have been finalized.