The US military and National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) have joined forces to develop a revolutionary heroin vaccine which could be used to block the addictive effects of opioids. Funding has been awarded by the National Institutes of Health to advance the experimental treatment to clinical trial stage.
The vaccine was co-developed by researchers at the Military HIV Research Program (MHRP) and the NIDA. In preclinical studies, it induced antibodies that prevented heroin from crossing the blood-brain barrier for a period of up to three months. By preventing heroin from binding to opioid receptors, the vaccine aims to block the euphoria and addictive effects of heroin and other commonly misused opioids.
Dr Gary Matyas, Chief of Adjuvants and Formulations for the MHRP said: "Our goal is to develop a safe and effective vaccine that could be used as an additional therapy for people with heroin use disorder. By blocking the effects of heroin in the brain, we hope to give people a window so they can overcome their addiction."
The new funding will facilitate pilot production of the vaccine candidate and preliminary safety testing. If successful, the vaccine is expected to enter human clinical testing in 2020.