‘We’ve made great progress’: UH scientists who created anti-fentanyl vaccine step closer to becoming FDA-approved

HOUSTON – More than 150 people die each day from opioid overdoses. This includes children, who in a moment of curiosity, might come across the synthetic opioid, fentanyl.

In 2022, history was made inside a University of Houston lab where a team of scientists developed a vaccine that blocked fentanyl from entering the brain, which prevents overdose and death.

KPRC 2 was the first local station to bring you inside the lab last year.

The shot, created by Doctor Colin Haile, an associate professor at the University of Houston, and his team of scientists, is closer to being used to save lives.

“Well, we’ve made great progress. We are now manufacturing clinical-grade vaccines. Then, we’ll do the toxicology studies and then submit an application to the FDA to conduct phase one human clinical trials,” Haile explained.

Haile said the goal is to start phase one clinical trials in humans in September of next year.

“We have ongoing other studies in and developing or second generation of the vaccine. We are putting the vaccine on film that can be dissolved under the tongue instead of injecting. I’ve had other parents contact me because of their concern for the children, because they know that they are experimenting with drugs. And so, they want their children to be vaccinated against fentanyl because of they’re just scared.” said Haile.

Approval for the vaccine to be used in children is Haile’s hope.

“That’s something we would have to, you know, conduct the FDA-required studies. One of the reasons I say yes to that is that one part of the vaccine is already in five vaccines on the market now. The other part of the vaccine, the adjuvant, has been in 13 human clinical trials and even in a study in infants, and it’s proven safe and effective. We also see it as a potential prophylactic for first responders.”

“You can give this vaccine to drug search dogs that actually use their nose to look for fentanyl or other drugs and they might accidentally get intoxicated with it,” said Carlos Lopez Arteaga, a University of Houston researcher. “The only pushback I would see with that is that they use it for medical reasons. But I mean, we still have morphine, we still have Advil, we still have a ton of other pain medications that are available to us.”

About the Author:

Zachery “Zach” Lashway anchors KPRC 2+ Now. He began at KPRC 2 as a reporter in October 2021.