Brazilian Scientists Win Euro Prize For Vaccine That Blocks Cocaine From Brain.

Photo credit: Federal University of Minas Gerais. The medical university that developed the new cocaine vaccine.
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Scientists in Brazil have announced the development of an innovative new treatment for addiction to the drug and its powerful derivative crack: a vaccine that blocks the passage of cocaine into the brain, and have won a Euro prize of half a million euros after a vote by doctors from 17 countries.

Brazil is the world’s second largest consumer of cocaine by volume.

There were 11 other finalists in the prize competition, including another vaccine from the same university for Covid-19.

The new cocaine vaccine is called Calixcoca.

The Calixcoca research is the highlighted initiative of the second edition of the Euro Innovation in Health Award.  The award is organized by the pharmaceutical multinational Eurofarma, which operates in more than 20 countries.

The research coordinator, Professor Frederico Garcia, from the Department of Psychiatry at the Faculty of Medicine, thanked the Brazilian society that supported the campaign. “Developing science in Latin America is not easy. UFMG is, today, a university that is making a difference. We can only thank the support of our (university authorities)]”, he said.

The new vaccine induces the immune system to produce antibodies that bind to cocaine in the bloodstream.

Tests on pregnant rats indicated the antibodies are passed on through a mother’s milk, suggesting the vaccine could protect nursing babies as well.

Garcia cautioned the vaccine would not be a panacea and said it would be most helpful for recovering addicts who do not want to get hooked on the drug again following rehabilitation.

In his speech, the professor highlighted his commitment to patients who suffer from chemical dependency. “We know how difficult it is to have an addicted person at home, how painful it is for someone suffering from addiction to have to deal with the ambivalence of whether or not to use drugs and how even more difficult it is for an addicted pregnant woman to protect her fetus and deal with the pain of abstinence. We have this mission,” he concluded.

In a recent interview Frederico Garcia praised the results achieved so far in the Calixcoca tests, but warned that the vaccine cannot be seen as a “panacea”.

“It would not be indicated indiscriminately for all people with cocaine use disorder. A scientific evaluation needs to be carried out to identify precisely how it would work and for whom, in fact, it would be effective”, he warned.

To date, Calixcoca is financed by the federal and Minas Gerais governments and with resources from parliamentary grants, but  its continued development depends on more investment.


Source:  Federal University of Minas Gerais Press Office.
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