As the 2012 recipient of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Avant-Garde Award for Medications Development, Gary R. Matyas, PhD, is developing a vaccine that will not only treat heroin addiction, but will also prevent HIV infection. Matyas says the vaccine will be effective, safe and easily manufactured. With this award, Matyas will receive $1,000,000 per year for five years to support his research. He works at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) in Silver Spring, M.d
Matyas’ proposal stems from an existing research collaboration between NIDA and the U.S. Military HIV Research Program, part of the WRAIR. In 2010, the two organizations entered into an agreement to create a combination anti-heroin/HIV vaccine. The goal was to build upon previous preclinical research indicating that hapten-based anti-drug vaccines—in which a small molecule chemically similar to a drug of abuse (hapten) is bound to a protein carrier to induce an immune response—showed promise against a variety of abused drugs, including heroin. As a result of this collaboration, the heroin component of a combination anti-heroin/HIV vaccine has now been created and is ready for optimization and advanced preclinical testing.
“Heroin use is strongly associated with a high risk of HIV infection and represents an increasingly important worldwide health problem,” stated Matyas. “The possibility of creating a combination heroin-HIV vaccine provides an important opportunity to address both a unique treatment for heroin abuse as well as continuing the quest to develop an effective preventive HIV vaccine.”
The award will be administered through the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine, Inc. and work done in collaboration with the U.S. Military HIV Research Program and NIDA. This research competition is an extension of NIDA’s Avant-Garde Award for Innovative HIV/AIDS Research, now in its fifth year. Both competitions are intended to stimulate high-impact research that may lead to groundbreaking opportunities for the prevention and treatment of drug abuse. For further information about NIDA’s Avant-Garde Award for Medications Development, please visit http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/rfa-files/RFA-DA-12-010.html.