UK and Wake Forest researchers get $6.4 million to keep developing new therapy for cocaine abuse and overdose

Three professors at the University of Kentucky and one at Wake Forest University have received $6.4 million from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to keep developing “a promising new therapy for overdose and addiction closer to clinical trials,” a UK news release reports.

“Dr. Zhan’s groundbreaking work in this field cannot be overstated,”
said Kelly M. Smith, interim dean of the UK College of Pharmacy. “There currently is no FDA-approved
treatment for cocaine overdose or cocaine addiction, and Dr. Zhan and
his research team are trying to change that. Developing such therapies
would be a major breakthrough for health care.”

Zhan’s team designed and tested an enzyme that breaks down cocaine in the blood without producing harmful
byproducts. Now it will evaluate another enzyme “for its ability to neutralize cocaine in
the bloodstream using molecular modeling technology,” the release said. Early results show it is more effective ans acts more quickly.

“We envision that this therapy could eventually become a viable treatment option for cocaine abuse,” Zhan said in the release.

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