SANTA MONICA, Calif., Oct. 18, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Opiant Pharmaceuticals, Inc. ("Opiant") (NASDAQ: OPNT), a specialty pharmaceutical company developing pharmacological treatments for addictions and drug overdose, today announced that researchers at the U.S. Military HIV Research Program (MHRP) at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) and SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY, have been awarded a grant by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to advance OPNT005, a heroin vaccine candidate, through Phase 1/2a clinical trials to assess its safety and efficacy.
OPNT005 was co-developed by researchers at MHRP and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the NIH. Opiant acquired exclusive development and commercialization rights to this heroin vaccine candidate in 2016. By binding heroin in the blood and thus reducing its passage into the brain, antibodies produced in response to the vaccine can block the euphoria and addictive effects of heroin and other commonly misused opioids. In preclinical studies, the vaccine attenuated the effects of heroin in mice and rats for periods of up to three months.
This new NIH grant of approximately $3.7 million for the budget period through August 31, 2019, will fund pilot production of OPNT005 and preliminary safety testing. Additional funds will be available from the NIH, subject to availability and the successful execution of these tasks. If successful, it will progress to a clinical trial evaluating the efficacy of OPNT005 in healthy volunteers, which will be led by Dr. Stephen Thomas at Upstate Medical University.
“We wish to extend our congratulations to the researchers at MHRP and SUNY Upstate Medical University on the receipt of this NIH grant,” said Roger Crystal, M.D., Chief Executive Officer of Opiant. “We look forward to seeing OPNT005 being further evaluated in the clinic.”
The abuse of opioids, which include heroin and fentanyl, is a growing problem in the United States. In 2016, nearly 948,000 people (ages 12 or older) reported using heroin. This resulted in over 80,000 emergency department visits and 15,500 heroin-related overdose deaths. OPNT005 represents a unique approach to treating heroin addiction, permitting patients to remain on conventional medication assisted treatments (MATs) including buprenorphine and methadone, while selectively reducing or eliminating the pharmacological effects of heroin.
About Opiant Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Opiant Pharmaceuticals, Inc. is a specialty pharmaceutical company developing pharmacological treatments for addictions and drug overdose. NIDA, a division of the NIH, describes addictive disorders as chronic relapsing brain diseases which burden society at both the individual and community levels. With its innovative opioid antagonist nasal delivery technology, Opiant is positioned to become a leader in these treatment markets. Opiant's first drug overdose product, NARCAN® Nasal Spray, is approved for marketing in the U.S. and Canada by its commercialization partner, Adapt Pharmaceuticals, now owned by Emergent BioSolutions, Inc. For more information please visit: www.opiant.com.
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