Heroin is an opioid that is easily made from morphine, a widely used and very effective analgesic. About twice as potent as morphine, heroin is highly addictive. There are no approved medical uses for heroin in the United States. Beginning in 2010, the increasing availability of abuse-deterrent formulations of prescription opioids that cannot be readily injected or insufflated (snorted) resulted in a marked increase in the use of illicit heroin.
Further, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Opioid Use Disorders are highly prevalent among criminal justice populations, with half of state and federal prisoners meeting the criteria for Substance Use Disorder. Because of reluctance to use available medicines to treat Opioid Use Disorder in criminal justice settings, the disease goes largely untreated during incarceration, and opioid use often resumes after release. Consequently, a former inmate’s risk of death within the first 2 weeks of release is more than 12 times that of other individuals, with the leading cause of death being a fatal overdose. Overdoses are more common when a person relapses to drug use after a period of abstinence due to loss of tolerance to the drug.
Heroin Vaccine OPNT005
Opiant in-licensed OPNT005, a novel heroin vaccine developed by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) in collaboration with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a division of the National Institute of Health (NIH). The heroin vaccine is designed to generate antibodies that bind to heroin injected into the bloodstream. The heroin bound to the antibody is too large to enter the brain, effectively keeping it out of the brain and potentially blocking both its pleasurable and harmful effects. Because the antibodies generated by this vaccine are highly specific to heroin and its metabolites, it can be used in conjunction with other medications approved to treat OUD, such as buprenorphine and methadone. Like other vaccines, the antibodies generated by an effective heroin vaccine aim to provide long-lasting “protection” against the effects of heroin.
Our Programs and Progress
The heroin vaccine candidate, currently in preclinical development, is fully-funded by a government grant through Phase 1/2a.
- Promising preclinical data generated with this vaccine
- NIH awarded a grant to Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) and SUNY Upstate Medical University to advance the program through Phase 1/2a clinical trials
- Pilot production of the vaccine is underway and will be followed by preliminary safety testing