• WRAIR Investigator Receives Key Support to Develop Combined Anti-Heroin and HIV Vaccine

    WRAIR investigator Dr. Gary R. Matyas is the 2012 recipient of the NIDA Avant-Garde Award for Medications Development. (Photo by Phil Collins, WRAIR)

    Dr. Gary R. Matyas of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) has been selected as the 2012 recipient of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Avant-Garde Award for Medications Development.

    Matyas proposes to develop an effective, safe, and easily manufactured combination anti-heroin/human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) vaccine that could treat heroin addiction while also preventing HIV infection in those receiving the vaccine. Matyas will receive $1 million per year for five years to support his research. He is a U.S. Army civilian at WRAIR in Silver Spring, MD. NIDA, part of the National Institutes of Health, announced the award July 25 as part of its Avant-Garde Award Program for HIV/AIDS Research.

    “This highly innovative dual-vaccine model would simultaneously address the intertwined epidemics of heroin abuse and HIV,” said NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow. “This is precisely the type of groundbreaking research NIDA’s Avant-Garde program was designed to support. The implications for public health are enormous.”

    The proposal stems from an existing research collaboration between NIDA and WRAIR’s U.S. Military HIV Research Program, which is supported by the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine. In 2010, the two organizations entered into an agreement to create a combination anti-heroin/HIV vaccine. The goal was to build upon previous preclinical research indicating that hapten-based anti-drug vaccines—in which a small molecule chemically similar to a drug of abuse (hapten) is bound to a protein carrier to induce an immune response—showed promise against a variety of abused drugs, including heroin.

    As a result of this collaboration, a combination candidate anti-heroin/HIV vaccine has been created that is ready for optimization and advanced preclinical testing. The grant award will support this next phase of research and development.

    Matyas proposes to develop an effective, safe, and easily manufactured combination anti-heroin/ human immunodeficiency virus vaccine that could treat heroin addiction while also preventing HIV infection in those receiving the vaccine. Matyas will receive $1 million per year for five years to support his research.

    “Heroin use is strongly associated with a high risk of HIV infection and represents an increasingly important worldwide health problem,” said Matyas. “The possibility of creating a combination heroin/HIV vaccine provides an important opportunity to address both a unique treatment for heroin abuse as well as continuing the quest to develop an effective preventive HIV vaccine.”

    Founded in 1893 as the Army Medical School, WRAIR now comprises two Centers of Excellence, the Center for Infectious Disease Research (CIDR) and the Center for Military Psychiatry and Neuroscience (CMPN). HIV, malaria, dengue, diarrheal diseases, and wound infections are some of the diseases under study at CIDR. CMPN performs research in the areas of brain injury, neuroprotection, sleep management, and post-traumatic stress.

    For more information on WRAIR, visit www.wrair.army.mil.

     


    • —WRAIR Public Affairs Office

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