A historical summary is provided of the evolution of the University of Michigan Addiction Research Center (UMARC) since its origins in 1988. Begun as an National Institutes of Health (NIH) research center within a Department of Psychiatry and focused solely upon alcohol and aging, early work emphasized treatment efficacy, differential outcome studies and characterization of the neurophysiological and behavioral manifestations of chronic alcoholism. Over the last 15 years, UMARC has extended its research focus along a number of dimensions: its developmental reach has been extended etiologically by studies of risk early in the life span, and by way of work on earlier screening and the development of early, brief treatment interventions. The addiction focus has expanded to include other drugs of abuse. Levels of analysis have also broadened, with work on the molecular genetics and brain neurophysiology underlying addictive processes, on one hand, and examination of the role of the social environment in long-term course of disorder on the other hand. Activities have been facilitated by several research training programs and by collaborative relationships with other universities around the United States and in Poland. Since 2002, a program for research infrastructure development and collaboration has been ongoing, initially with Poland and more recently with Ukraine, Latvia and Slovakia. A blueprint for the future includes expanded characterization of the neurobiology and genetics of addictive processes, the developmental environment, as well as programmatic work to address the public health implications of our ability to identify risk for disorder very early in life.