Dr. Marco Pravetoni leads a team of researchers at the University of Minnesota Medical School who are currently developing a fentanyl vaccine.
The team will begin clinical trials later this this year and the goal is to eventually create a product that can prevent overdoses before they even happen.
Dr. Pravetoni says the vaccine might also be used to protect first responders from accidental exposures.
"Possibly law enforcement, EMT, airport security, all of those could be preventatively vaccinated against fentanyl,” Pravetoni says.
Accidental exposure is a real concern for first responders.
Dr. Praventoni says a recent case involved a handful of law enforcement officers who were exposed to fentanyl while responding to a car crash on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
One of the cars that was involved in the crash was carrying fentanyl and when the crash happened the drug became airborne.
Pravetoni says this vaccine would have protected first responders, and that’s one of the main drivers behind the vaccine his team is working on.
This research team is also working on the development of new fentanyl antibodies.
The National Institutes of Health recently awarded the team a $2.4 million grant to help with this research.
Dr. Pravetoni says these antibodies would help fight off fentanyl and other drugs after an exposure has happened.
He says the antibodies are similar to Narcan, a drug that many law enforcement officers and first responders already carry for an emergency.
However, these antibodies are different in the way that they interact with the human body.
He says they work differently and may potentially carry fewer side effects and may be able to offer protection for several months.
“We really see them being combined with what is currently out there already,” Dr. Pravetoni says.
The recent grant will fund this research until the year 2023.
Dr. Pravetoni says research like this often takes several years so it could be a while before these lifesaving products become available to the general public.