MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — With a $2 million grant from the Encova Foundation of West Virginia research into ultrasound treatments at the WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute to transform addiction treatment is moving forward.

Karyn Wallace

The gift was received during the recent record-breaking WVU Day of Giving.

NRI Vice President Karyn Wallace said groundbreaking research will never stop and this grant will keep hope alive for patients and researchers locked in the advancement of the next trial phase.

“They’ve been incredibly brave and are really behind our motivation to keep going, and that’s what the Encova gift will do—allow us to touch additional patients, and that’s what it’s all about,” Wallace said.

“The cutting-edge treatments that Dr. Ali Rezai, executive chair of RNI, and his team are performing are remarkable and desperately needed in West Virginia and other parts of the country to combat addiction,” Encova President and CEO TJ Obrokta Jr. said. “As a company, we strive to give back to the communities we serve, and we are proud to partner with and provide funds to the WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute.”

TJ Obrokta

Researchers at RNI are continuing the first safety and feasibility study involving focused ultrasound neuromodulation for addiction in the world, which has demonstrated an immediate and lasting reduction in drug cravings. Wallace said work will continue for numerous participants in different phases of research treatment.

“Some of these procedures that are dependent on funding for us to continue, we’ll be able to continue,” Wallace said. “A lot of these have phases, these protocols, so not only will it enable us to complete the phase we’re working on right now but then to move a study to the next phase.”

In addition to specific goals, the grant allows continuous work toward a better future for families that have dealt with the opioid crisis. Being at the epicenter of the opioid crisis and having one of the highest per capita drug overdose death rates nationwide makes the research extremely impactful.

“We have equipment needs as things advance in the field, so we want to be able to keep up with the technology,” Wallace said. “If we’re going to be “first in the world” in studies, we have to keep our technology at that level to be able to do first in the world procedures.”

Every bit of research in a groundbreaking field is vital, and the smallest discovery can result in key gains for researchers to use in the next trial. Wallace said that type of learning is happening every day at the RNI.

The requirements to enter the program are strict and complicated and can take a period of time. Wallace said not all patients who experience addiction will qualify for the ultrasound trial program, and they won’t turn people away who need help.

“We can get them started in our clinics and our programs,” Wallace said. “We see a lot of those people who are very happy to have something done to help them; there’s even a clinical side if they aren’t eligible for the research study.”