Jan. 5, 2022 – It’s been nearly 50 years since a group of researchers in Chicago reported an extraordinary finding: They’d created a vaccine against drug addiction and an early test showed it might work. 

The scientists provided a rhesus monkey with drugs like heroin and cocaine; it became addicted. But when they injected the monkey with a compound they’d developed — one designed to coax the immune system into fighting addictive drugs as if they were pathogenic invaders — the animal stopped seeking drugs.

Their finding, published in the top scientific journal Nature in 1974, heralded a new frontier in treating addiction. But despite millions of dollars in research — and decades’ worth of studies, including a high-profile but failed attempt at a nicotine vaccine — there’s still no Food and Drug Administration-approved shot against any addictive substance.  Scientists at a new University of Washington research center hope that will soon change.

“What I’m hoping to achieve is pretty much every year, we’re going to start a new clinical trial,” said professor Marco Pravetoni, who was recently recruited from the University of Minnesota to lead UW Medicine’s new Center for Medication Development for Substance Use Disorders. The center, which has raised more than $2 million in initial funding, officially opened Monday. 


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