The University of Montana received millions of dollars from the National Institutes of Health to develop a vaccine to combat opioid addiction.
"People are dying everyday from overdoses here in Montana. Everyday," Dr. Jay Evans the Director for the Center of Translational Medicine said.
It's an epidemic killing people in all 50 states.
"We’re talking about people like you and me that bought prescribed opioids when they had a surgery or an injury, and they’ve gotten addicted to them," Evans said.
Evans adds opioids span a number of different drugs, including heroin, oxycodone and synthetic drugs like fentanyl.
On Tuesday, the University of Montana received a $3.3 million contract from the National Institutes of Health to develop a vaccine targeting opioid addiction.
"We’re specifically targeting a fentanyl vaccine, although the technology we develop can be used for things like heroin, even cocaine, and other drugs of addiction as well," Evans said. "How the technology works is the antibodies generated from the vaccine bind to fentanyl in the bloodstream and prevent it from crossing the blood brain barrier."
Evans says his team will target people who want to quit their addiction, so after being injected with the vaccine.
"They’ll have no positive response from the drugs so it helps them quit. The relapse won't happen," Evans said.
While Evans is leading the project, he says UM students are really the ones doing the work. Kris Short a fourth year PhD student on toxicology is one of those students.
"Typically we would not expect a well funded biotech in Montana, but our group is just that. We’re a world class vaccine unit here in Missoula," Short said.
Short adds the project will not only get students involved, but also prepare them for the future.
"We’re not only able to train students in this field, but allow them to get to the next step," Short said.
Evans is hoping to start clinical trials on people in five years.
His team is looking to hire a few more people. You can apply here.