Fentanyl vaccine developed by UH faculty members
A UH addiction psychology lab finished developing a vaccine that can potentially be used to prevent fentanyl overdose.
Research associate professor Colin Haile has spent five years developing and testing this vaccine, which prevents the potentially deadly drug from entering the brain.
Though the lab group has been working on similar vaccines for a long time, they recently focused on fentanyl because of the opioid epidemic.
Like any vaccine, it induces the body to make antibodies against something that can harm the body, fentanyl in this case, according to Haile.
“If a vaccinated individual consumes fentanyl, the anti-fentanyl antibodies bind to the drug and prevent it from getting into the brain where it would stimulate areas that trigger euphoria or fentanyl’s deadly effects such as overdose and death,” Haile said. “I see our vaccine being used with existing medications to treat opioid use disorder as a relapse prevention agent.”
To create this vaccine, the lab partnered with professor of medicinal chemistry and Joseph P. & Shirley Shipman Buckley Endowed professor of drug discovery Greg Cuny, Ph.D. Cuny created the vaccine while Haile’s lab ran biochemical tests on it.
Haile’s lab then vaccinated mice and took blood samples to confirm the vaccine produced anti-fentanyl antibodies. They performed pain tests to make sure fentanyl was blocked, since it is known to reduce pain.
Now, Haile and his team are manufacturing a clinical-grade vaccine for toxicology testing. The plan is to collect additional data on the vaccine’s effectiveness and submit an Investigational New Drug application to the Food and Drug Administration.
If the FDA then approves, Phase 1 clinical trials can begin.
The vaccine is created for people to end their addiction to fentanyl, not only for those accidently exposed to large amounts of it, according to Haile.
“There have been over 100,000 overdose deaths recently within a 12-month period and 67 percent involved an opioid like fentanyl,” Haile said. “The medications used to treat OUD are unfortunately not adequate. We believe our vaccine will have a significant impact on addressing this problem.”