Federal stimulus grant supports study of anti-nicotine vaccine

Efforts to develop a vaccine capable of preventing tobacco addiction got a $10 million shot in the arm in the form of an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant. The award to Nabi Biopharmaceuticals of Rockville, Md., was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health.

The Recovery Act funds will help pay for the first phase III trial of NicVAX, an injectable vaccine intended to help people quit smoking and prevent them from relapsing. The grant enables Nabi to retain its current staff as well as support 150 jobs at NicVAX research sites around the country.

Already given fast track designation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, NicVAX passed initial regulatory hurdles showing the basic idea is sound. Patients in the trial get six monthly shots in the arm.

Earlier results show that smokers using the vaccine had higher rates of quitting and longer-term cigarette abstinence than those given a placebo.

"Nicotine addiction causes nearly a half million deaths annually in the United States alone. Finding effective treatments that can help people stay off cigarettes has been a real challenge," said NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins.

Annually in the U.S., cigarette smoking costs more than $193 billion ($97 billion in lost productivity and $96 billion in health care expenditures).

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