Developing Translational Vaccines against Heroin and Fentanyl through Investigation of Adjuvants and Stability

Steven Blake, Paul T. Bremer, Bin Zhou, Nikolai Petrovsky, Lauren C. Smith, Candy S. Hwang, Kim D. Janda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


The nearly insurmountable adversity that accompanies opioid use disorder (OUD) creates life-altering complications for opioid users. To worsen matters, existing small-molecule drugs continue to inadequately address OUD due to their engagement of the opioid receptor, which can leave the user to deal with side effects and financial hardships from their repeated use. An alternative therapeutic approach utilizes endogenously generated antibodies through active vaccination to reduce the effect of opioids without modulating the opioid receptor. Here, we explore different adjuvants and storage conditions to improve opioid vaccine efficacy and shelf life. Our results revealed that inulin-based formulations (Advax) containing a CpG oligodeoxynucleotide (ODN) acted as effective adjuvants when combined with a heroin conjugate: immunized mice showed excellent recovery from heroin-induced antinociception accompanied by high titer, high opioid affinity serum antibodies similar to the immunopotentiating properties of traditional alum-based adjuvants. Moreover, nonhuman primates vaccinated with a heroin/fentanyl combination vaccine demonstrated potent antibody responses against opioids when formulated with both inulin and alum adjuvants. Finally, storing a freeze-dried opioid vaccine formulation maintained efficacy for up 1 year at room temperature. The results from our studies represent an advance toward a clinically feasible opioid vaccine.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)228-235
Number of pages8
JournalMolecular Pharmaceutics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jan 2021


  • adjuvants
  • carrier protein
  • fentanyl
  • heroin
  • immunopharmacotherapy
  • opioids
  • vaccine


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