Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - The University of Montana’s Center for Translational Medicine has received a $30 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to help develop vaccines to prevent fentanyl and heroin overdoses.

KGVO News spoke to UM’s Director for Strategic Communications Dave Kuntz for details on this groundbreaking research.

$30 Million to UM for Research on Vaccines for Fentanyl and Heroin Overdoses

“The reason that we're seeing this big growth and research is through projects like the UM Center for Translational Medicine, which is the lead research lab on this vaccine work,” began Kuntz. “To date, this lab has received over $30 million in contracts to find vaccine solutions for epidemics surrounding fentanyl and heroin overdoses to help folks be able to overcome their addictions in these areas, in addition to vaccines for influenza and pneumonia and tuberculosis and other needs for society.”

Law enforcement and emergency responders use NARCAN to save those who have overdosed on Fentanyl.

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The Vaccines will Treat Those Struggling with Addictions to Fentanyl and Heroin

Kuntz then provided more detailed information about the research being done at UM and other institutions.

“The vaccine would be a treatment for people who are struggling with addictions such as fentanyl, heroin etc,” he said. “This would be a product that could be administered during the recovery phase to help people overcome these addictions. What Narcan and these other drugs have done has helped people in this specific instance of an overdose, but this would be something that would effectively be a tool for healthcare providers and public health officials to be able to use to help people overcome their addictions by being able to help them get off of the substance altogether.”

Kuntz said the UM Center for Translational Medicine is also working with other institutions on a variety of groundbreaking projects.

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“The other vaccines that they are looking at developing are for influenza, tuberculosis, monkeypox, Lyme disease, Ecoli, different allergies, and even cancer,” he said. “Altogether there are 70 full-time employees that are working on these at the Center for Translational Medicine at the University or its private sector partner. They're across the river at Inimmune, and it's really becoming a hub for high-level scientists here in Missoula to be able to work on these important projects.”

Kuntz closed by pointing out the opportunities being presented to UM students to work on these life-saving projects.

“What's really great about the research going on here at the Center for Translational Medicine is while it's being led by high-level research scientists, a lot of the day-to-day work is made available to our students, our graduate and undergraduate students,” he said. “So our students studying in the College of Health are really getting this world-class opportunity to participate in this research.”

The work is being funded 100 percent by the National Institutes of Health.

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