Opioid overdoses now account for more fatalities than car accidents and gun violence, with 115 people dying from the epidemic every day. With such a severe public health crisis more research and funding have gone into understanding addiction and better ways of treating it. To address the continuing issue the University of Minnesota Medical School launched the Medical Discovery Team on Addiction to track down a cure.

“Vaccines might be used not only for abuse per se but also some of the consequences, such as fatal overdoses,” said Marco Pravetoni, PhD, in an interview with Pharmaceutical Technology. Pravetoni's lab is busy working to develop a vaccine against heroin and prescription opioids, such as oxycodone. 

“The vaccines consist of a modified form of the target opioid, chemically conjugated to a protein,” Pravetoni said. “Like any vaccine, this is an injectable product that is mixed in an adjunct, and once injected will stimulate the patient’s immune system to develop antibodies that will be selective for the target opioid.”

While intuitive, the work remains difficult. Still, Pravetoni hopes to move to clinical trials in the coming years, and eventually, release the vaccine for those who suffer from opioid addiction.