The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) of La Jolla, CA has completed pre-clinical testing of a vaccine to block the “high” effect stimulated by the opioid drug heroin and is now ready to test it in humans following tests that showed the vaccine’s effectiveness in nonhuman primates.1
According to TSRI, the vaccine is designed to train the immune system to do something it is not designed to do naturally—recognize a substance (the heroin molecule) that is not a pathogen.3 Since heroin is not a pathogen, the vaccine exposes the immune system to a part of the heroin molecule’s structure forcing the immune system to respond by producing antibodies.3
These antibodies then neutralize the heroin molecules keeping them from reaching the brain, thus preventing the euphoric-like feeling caused by heroin.3 Researchers believe that the vaccine will help to eliminate the motivation for recovering addicts to continue using heroin.2
The vaccine was previously tested on laboratory rodents where it proved effective in neutralizing heroin.2 More recently, researchers conducted vaccine trials on four rhesus monkeys and found the vaccine to produce an effective immune response that could neutralize varying doses of heroin.2
The study’s lead investigator Kim Janda, PhD, professor of chemistry and a member of the Skagg’s Institute for Chemical Biology at TSRI stated:
We’ve optimized every component of the vaccine. We were able to recapitulate most of what we’ve done in rodents. If it works in nonhuman primates, we shouldn’t see any hiccups in going into humans.3
Dr. Janda added:
This validates our previous rodent data and positions our vaccine in a favorable light for anticipated clinical evaluation. We believe this vaccine candidate will prove safe for human trials.2
TSRI’s vaccine is designed to work only against the effects of heroin and not other opioids.3
1 Coxworth B. Heroin Vaccine Comes a Step Closer to Human Use. New Atlas June 6, 2017.
2 The Scripps Research Institute. TSRI Anti-Heroin Vaccine Found Effective in Non-Human Primates. The Scripps Research Institute June 6, 2017.
3 Fikes B. Heroin vaccine works in monkeys, being readied for human testing. The San Diego Union-Tribune June 10, 2017.