Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions

Promoting Public Health: Toward a vaccine for methamphetamine abuse

September 12, 2011


A new vaccine now in development may
help treat addiction to methamphetamine.
Credit: U.S. Drug Enforcement
Administration (DEA)


Scientists are reporting development of three promising
formulations that could be used in a vaccine to treat
methamphetamine addiction — one of the most serious
drug abuse problems in the U.S. The report appears in
the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Methamphetamine abuse costs the United States more than $23 billion annually in medical expenses, law enforcement costs, and lost productivity.

A research team led by Kim Janda, Ph.D., with the Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology in the Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California, recognized the enormous scope of the problem. Here is Dr. Janda:

“Meth” or “crystal meth,” can cause a variety of problems including cardiovascular damage and death. It is highly addictive, and users in conventional behavioral treatment programs often relapse. This has been a very frustrating problem for physicians, therapists and patients.

One potential solution to that problem is a vaccine, a vaccine that, in effect, immunizes people against the effects of methamphetamine. Scientists have tried to develop meth vaccines in the past, as Dr. Janda notes:

“Unfortunately, those meth vaccines that have been tested are not effective or cost prohibitive. To overcome these challenges, we made and tested new vaccine formulations that could potentially be effective for long periods, which would drive down costs and help prevent relapse.”

Dr. Janda’s team developed and tested in laboratory animals a new approach to developing meth vaccines that overcomes those hurdles.

“We found that three of the new formulations that produced a good immune response in mice (stand-ins for humans in the lab) were particularly promising. These findings represent a unique approach to the design of new vaccines against methamphetamine abuse.”

Smart Chemists/Innovative Thinking

Smart chemists. Innovative thinking. That’s the key to solving global challenges of the 21st Century. Please check out more of our full-length podcasts on wide-ranging issues facing chemistry and science, such as promoting public health, developing new fuels and confronting climate change, at Today’s podcast was written by Michael Bernstein. I’m Adam Dylewski at the American Chemical Society in Washington.

Kim D. Janda, Ph.D.
Kim D. Janda, Ph.D.,
The Scripps Research Institute
The Skaggs Institute for
Chemical Biology La Jolla, Calif.