UW begins developing a vaccine to treat addiction


William He, Reporter

Following the opening of UW Medicine’s new Center for Medication Development for Substance Use Disorders on Jan. 3, researchers led by Dr. Marco Praventoni have begun developing a vaccine for the prevention and treatment of substance use disorders. As the number of overdose deaths in Washington continues to increase rapidly, the center has partnered with Columbia University for clinical trials and raised more than two million dollars in initial funding. In King County alone, 277 people died of drug-related deaths in 2021. Current medications that help combat addiction—such as naltrexone, methadone and buprenorphine—come with side effects that can lead people to get addicted to these medications. Researchers say that vaccines focused on fighting addiction could offer long-lasting protection against addiction and could potentially be cost-effective. Those in need would only need a shot every few months or once a year. Jürgen Unützer, professor and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the UW School of Medicine, told CBS that once the center has hired more faculty and staff, the new research center will likely expand to develop other novel addiction therapies.