Kiwi scientist gets funding to develop drug addiction vaccine

Drug addiction costs millions in healthcare costs every year. Photo credit: Getty

A vaccine to treat drug addiction is in the works. 

A research grant given to Ferrier Research Institute scientist Benjamin Compton will allow him to hopefully develop a synthetic vaccine that treats drugs like a toxin.

Dr Compton says it would teach the immune system to attack substances before they get to the brain.

"If you can't get high from the drug, then hopefully there's no point in taking it at all."

He says it will work best for those who are motivated to kick the habit.

"The nice thing about this type of therapy is it's complementary of both counselling services and medical replacement therapy as well." 

Researchers have reportedly been seeking a vaccine for drug addiction for decades. Dr Compton's got $150,000 from the Health Research Council to develop his version, which he hopes will be low-cost and able to be produced in bulk.

He thinks previous attempts relied too heavily on proteins.

"Our idea is to create vaccines that are devoid of all protein material. Instead we're going to rely on small molecule components."

The concept will be tested at first on mice.

Dr Compton says if all goes to plan, the vaccine could enter human trials in 2023.