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David Scott Wilson, PhD

Faculty Starter Grant in Drug Delivery, 2021 Johns Hopkins University

The First Polymeric Conjugate Vaccine for Drug Addiction


Opioid addiction is a national medical crisis that is expected to worsen due to the socioeconomic fallout caused by the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Opioid vaccines are a promising treatment strategy for preventing opioid overdose and could enhance drug treatment when combined with existing modalities. The aim of vaccination is to generate opioid-specific antibodies that circulate in the serum to neutralize opioids, thus preventing overdose and the sensation sought by the user. However, given the inherent challenges of repeated vaccination, effective opioid vaccines must induce long-lasting, opioid-specific antibody responses. Here, we present a biomaterials-based strategy for engineering durable opioid-specific antibody responses. Our platform is designed to localize the delivery of various activating agents to the cells that produce opioid-specific antibodies, thus increasing the magnitude and durability of the opioid-specific antibody response while limiting the toxicity of these agents. If successful, our project will yield a clinically-viable therapy for preventing opioid overdose and demonstrate the efficacy of a platform that can be easily modified to treat other forms of drug addiction.

PhRMA Foundation Research Starter Grant funding has allowed my lab to pursue a high-risk, high-reward project, yielding sufficient data to submit a patent on our technology and pursue multiyear grant funding to continue our quest to transition our technology to the clinic. In addition, the award allowed me to offer additional training opportunities and support to young scientists as they begin their scientific journey.

David Scott Wilson