BLACKSBURG, Va. (WFXR) — According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, there were 1,241 drug overdoses due to opioids in Virginia, slightly higher compare than national rates. Researchers at Virginia Tech are developing a vaccine to combat opioid addiction with hopes to curb the number of overdoses which have impacted communities across the country, according to a statement from Virginia Tech.
“It’s a complicated societal problem, one that impacts all walks of life,” said Mike Zhang, the lead researcher and professor at Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Engineering.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse awarded the research team headed by Zhang a two-year $3 million grant to begin the study.
Researchers aim to create a vaccine that will help a person develop antibodies against opioids.
In addition to the vaccine helping to prevent the dependence developed through the use of opioids, researchers say the vaccine may be administered to a person during an overdose.
Previously, Zhang developed a vaccine to curb nicotine addiction that is waiting for patent approval.
After two years of the research on the opioid vaccination, the grant may be extended for five years totaling $8.7 million.
“Once you start developing vaccines against psychoactive compounds, you can aim your technology where society needs it,” Zhang said. “We have a lot of work ahead of us, and this will take several years, but it is extremely gratifying to work on something so important.”