By Susan Bartal, Penn State
A Penn State alumnus, who attended both Penn State Hazleton and University Park, has won an award that will pay him $5 million to research his proposal to develop a vaccine against HIV that also prevents heroin addiction.
Gary R. Matyas, a 1978 Penn State graduate in biophysics, captured the 2012 Avant-Garde Award for Medications Development from the National Institute on Drug Abuse with his plan to attack twin scourges.
“There is a strong correlation between heroin abuse and HIV infection, especially in developing countries,” Matyas said of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus that causes AIDS. “The possibility of creating a combination heroin/HIV vaccine provides an important opportunity to address both a unique treatment for heroin abuse as well as continuing the quest to develop an effective preventive HIV vaccine.”
Matyas works in Silver Spring, Md., at the U.S. Military HIV Research Program at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, where work already produced an anti-heroin component of the vaccine.