The research, funded by a three-year grant National Institute on Drug Abuse grant, aims to address the rising tide of heroin and other opioid addiction by developing two vaccines.
MMRF – the not-for-profit subsidiary of Hennepin Healthcare System – has selected Goodwin Biotechnology to help develop these vaccines, and Muctarr Sesay, CSO at the contract development and manufacturing organisation (CDMO), said he found the project “to be highly intriguing."
“This is not an unusual approach for us when we initiate a project because we collaborate with many of our clients in the early stages of proof of concept/development by empirically recommending the appropriate processes to create a viable antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) or protein-drug conjugate (PDC) candidate,” he said in a press release.
For now further details are not available, a spokesman from the CDMO told this publication, as its client MMRF wishes to preserve the proprietary issues surrounding the vaccines.
“All we can say is that the work will be done here at Goodwin [in Florida] and it will be over the next two-to-three years.”
Addiction vaccine developments
The project is not the first to investigate vaccines as a way of treating addiction.
In 2014, The University of Minnesota said it was working on a preclinical vaccine which had shown success in blocking opiates from reaching the brains of rodents. The vaccine candidate, 60XY-KLH, was designed using a series of conjugates and involved no expression systems or cell lines.
The same year, the Scripps Research Institute improved on a failed anti-smoking vaccine based on a large carrier protein conjugated to haptens – molecular mimics of nicotine which provoke an immune response.
Vaccines work by stimulating the immune system against foreign invaders and in the Scripps Research case, the body identified nicotine as a foreign antigen, eliciting antibodies that alter nicotine’s pharmacokinetics, reducing nicotine levels in the blood and ultimately entry into the central nervous system.
The technique could also be used to treat cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine addiction, the Scripps team said at the time.