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NIH Awards $3 Million To Tech Researchers To Develop Opioid Vaccine

Mike Zhang, Virginia Tech Department of Biological Systems Engineering.
Mike Zhang, Virginia Tech Department of Biological Systems Engineering. (Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech)

Researchers at Virginia Tech have just received a $3 million dollar grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop a vaccine to combat opioid addiction. 

At present, there is no cure for the dependence opioids create when they enter the bloodstream and the brain.  But Mike Zhang and his team have a vaccine they think can stop it.

"Possibly can give it to people who have not tried the opioid, so when they do use opioid, the do not get high, they do not get addicted."

He says one shot and two boosters will help recipients develop antibodies against opioids.

"So when people use opioids and the presence of antibodies in the blood can prevent a lot of the opioids molecules into the brain."

Zhang has developed a vaccine for nicotine addiction for which patents are now pending, and he believes using similar techniques can produce a vaccine for opioids as well. 

Clinical trials for humans could be years away.  The three million dollar NIH grant could be expanded to almost nine million over five years if milestones are met.

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