December 21, 2012
Penn State Hazelton alumnus Dr. Gary R. Matyas has won the 2012 Avant-Garde Award for Medications Development, a $5 million award, from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The award will fund his research to develop a vaccine against HIV that also prevents heroin addiction . Matyas works with the U.S. Military HIV Research Program at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Md., where research has already produced the anti-heroin component of the vaccine called haptens. The anti-heroin haptens is now ready for a more advanced, pre-clinical testing phase. Through the award, Matyas will receive $1 million per year for the next five years in support of this next phase of research and development. According to Matyas, "there is a strong correlation between heroin abuse and HIV infection, especially in developing countries." He goes on to note that work to create a combination heroin/HIV vaccine provides a unique opportunity to treat heroin abuse as well as to develop an effective preventive HIV vaccine.