Cocaine Vaccine Edges Closer
A biotech company hooks up with a research college to chase the coke vaccine grail.
Canadian biotech company Immunovaccine is linking with New York's Weill Cornell Medical College to develop a cocaine vaccine. If successful, the vaccine produced could prevent addicts from getting high on cocaine, by creating antibodies that dull the drug's pleasurable effects. Weill Cornell's researchers have only been able to achieve limited success in trials with mice, but their promising initial results still caught Immunovaccine's eye. “They showed that it has the capacity to work by preventing animals from feeling the effects of cocaine,” says Marc Mansour, Immunovaccine’s chief science and operating officer. “But they need an antibody or immune response that is long-lasting, and they need to generate it with fewer immunizations. So that is where our value proposition is. We can enhance the vaccine.” The plan is to combine the college's anti-cocaine antigen—a substance that causes the body to produce antibodies against the drug—with Immunovaccine's own adjuvant, a substance made to boost the body's immune response. Human trials will commence if it works on mice. “The vaccine would be applied theoretically for people in relapse,” says Mansour. “They’ve gone through their treatments and they’re at high risk of getting addicted again, so you give them the vaccine to prevent them from a setback.”