MMRF Researchers Working on Vaccines to Treat Opioid Addiction

Posted March 31, 2017

In the United States, 2.6 million people are dependent on heroin and prescription opioids such as oxycodone and hydrocodone. Opioid abuse is one of the leading causes of overdose deaths, claiming the lives of more than 33,000 people in 2015 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Scientists at the Minneapolis Medical Research Foundation (MMRF) are working to develop therapeutic vaccines for the treatment of oxycodone, hydrocodone, and heroin abuse and dependence. This research is funded by a three-year grant to the MMRF from the National Institute on Drug Abuse*.

MMRF recently selected Goodwin Biotechnology of Plantation, Florida, to help develop the vaccines and ready them for clinical evaluation.

“Opioid pain relievers are generally safe when taken for a short time and as prescribed by a physician, but they are frequently misused because they produce euphoria in addition to pain relief,” according to Marco Pravetoni, PhD, MMRF researcher, Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School and one of the study’s principal investigators.

“Regular use, even as prescribed by a doctor, can produce dependence, and when misused or abused, opioid pain relievers can cause a fatal overdose,” Dr. Pravetoni said. “The current epidemic of heroin and prescription opioid abuse has led to increased opioid-related overdoses, now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. It is important to effectively treat opioid addiction in order to help break the close correlation of addiction with overdosing. The vaccines being developed by MMRF investigators are intended to provide an additional option for treating opioid addiction.”

Dr. Pravetoni is part of a team of MMRF researchers exploring the underlying causes of drug addiction and translating their scientific findings into future therapies. Visit our Research Programs page to learn more about our efforts in Addiction Medicine, Tobacco Treatment and other areas of biomedical research at MMRF.

*Funding for this study is supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number U01DA038876. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.