Dr. Kim Janda, who is working on creating vaccines to treat addiction, finds a growing number of people in the scientific community are interested in his work. He attributes the attention to a change in the way people view addiction.
Dr. Janda, a researcher at the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, has been studying addiction vaccines for more than 25 years, The New York Times reports. Now that addiction is thought to cause physical changes in the brain, scientists are looking for medical solutions, including vaccines. “It’s very fashionable now,” Dr. Janda told the newspaper. “When we started doing this 27 years ago, it wasn’t.”
The addiction vaccines he is developing prompt the immune system to produce antibodies to block a drug before it can affect the body or brain. They would be given after a person already has an addiction.
In July, Dr. Janda published a study of a promising vaccine against heroin addiction. The study, conducted in rats, showed the vaccine produces antibodies that prevent heroin from reaching the brain to produce feelings of euphoria.
In another recent study, he found a vaccine for nicotine addiction was not effective. He acknowledges none of the vaccines he has developed have yielded consistent results in humans during clinical trials.
Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), is a big supporter of Dr. Janda’s research. She told the newspaper Dr. Janda is a “visionary.” NIDA is a major source of Dr. Janda’s vaccine financing. “Now many people say, ‘Yes, of course’” to the idea of treating drugs through vaccines, Dr. Volkow noted. “But that took many years, and he traveled the road when there was a lot of skepticism.”