Scientists Go For Addiction Vaccine
The University of Washington (UW) has high hopes: to develop a vaccine that could counter the effects of addictive substances and illicit drugs, prevent overdoses, and save lives.
Work will take place at UW’s Drug Development Center for Substance Use Disorders, which opened on January 3rd.
It is headed by Marco Pravetoni, Professor of Pharmacology. Although the Seattle Times reported Jan. 5 that Pravetoni was the only faculty member at the UW’s new center at the time, he is likely to be soon followed by other allies and experts focused on the same goal. Pravetoni is optimistic about progress.
Pravetoni said, “We’re going to start a new clinical trial every year.” The professor is anxious to buckle up and get down to the hard work of developing an addiction vaccine that will save lives; however, the bill associated with such an enterprise will be high.
Pravetoni estimates it could cost up to $ 300 million.
The center has got off to a good start, however, and Pravetoni may have raised up to $ 50 million in funding to date. According to The Times, Pravetoni’s goal is “to get enough cash to get through at least Phase 1 and 2 – to prove that his vaccines are safe and likely to work – and then get a drug company to fund the rest”.
Addiction vaccines have a long history
The thought of an addiction vaccine might seem a bit counter-intuitive. Many vaccines ultimately work by increasing the amount of antibodies that could be used to fight off a particular virus. But how would an addiction vaccine work?
As it turns out, very similar.
According to The New York Times, which reported on so-called addictive vaccines in 2011, “These vaccines would act like vaccines against disease by stimulating the immune system to produce antibodies that turn off the narcotic before it can take root.” Brain.”
Unlike COVID-19 vaccination, the best course of action for an addictive vaccine would not be to get the vaccination prior to contact with the item to be immunized (in this case, illegal drugs). Instead, subjects would receive the vaccine after using the drug and developing addiction.
Animal experiments have shown that the idea works: rats that were vaccinated against heroin no longer experienced the effects of the drug and broke it off after the vaccination.
However, it was very difficult to make the leap from non-human animals to humans. In a nicotine shot attempt, the syringe did no better than a placebo in helping to quit smoking.
Researchers have been trying to crack the code for a long time: the first study in a peer-reviewed journal on the subject was published in Nature in 1974. The test person was a rhesus monkey; According to the study, “the results show that antibodies to morphine can block the effects of heroin on the central nervous system (CNS), which maintain self-administration behavior.”
In other words, an anti-heroin intake can cause a subject to stop shooting upward. Now it’s up to scientists like Pravetoni to stand on the shoulders of pioneers like Dr. Kim Janda (whose work included both the rat experiment described above and the nicotine vaccine study, and who has made advances in the field of addictive vaccines over decades) stand these issues human.
An “urgent need for new treatment options”
Operation Warp Speed was the endeavor that spawned the COVID vaccine, and it was a race against the clock like no other in modern times. Now there is another race against time that is perhaps just as important, if not more important – the sprint to get a drug addictive vaccine to market before drugs like fentanyl kill innumerable lives.
According to an article published in the journal Drugs: “Drug addiction is a chronically relapsing disease of the brain. There is an urgent need for new treatments for this disease. “
That was from 2003.
Since then, overdose deaths have skyrocketed.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of deaths from drug overdose rose annually from around 27,000 in 2003 to over 40,000 in 2011; by 2019 they had risen to over 70,000.
Annual numbers from 2021 were over 100,000.
The White House has supported an approach to the problem that is based on harm reduction rather than punishment; According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, major drugs of concern include “illegally manufactured fentanyl and synthetic opioids other than methadone (SOOTM), although other targets include” cocaine and other psychostimulants such as methamphetamine.
Some of the best minds in the world work tirelessly to solve problems that plague the nation. Although their work will not be easy, Professor Pravetoni’s words can find some consolation; Researchers like him, he says, “are trained to overcome adversity”.