UM’s Public/Private Business Incubator Gets 33 Million Grant To Develop An Opioid Vaccine…Wait, WHAT?!

by William Skink

After reading this Missoula Current article last week, my first thought was this: what the hell is an opioid vaccine?

Before getting to that question (which the article doesn’t help answer at all), the meat of Friday’s announcement is that the public/private relationship between the University of Montana and biotech firm Inimmune has netted the University its largest grant EVER, at 33 million dollars. This money is will help Inimmune develop an opioid vaccine.

If the name Inimmune sounds familiar, that’s because I wrote about this biotech company’s GlaxoSmithKline origin story in June, then I wrote about this company again the following month after I realized one of the investors is a shady billionaire who relocated to Kalispell, then got sued by the police chief.

Luckily, none of this pesky context is keeping this public/private relationship from moving full steam ahead to develop a vaccine to “cure” the problem created by Big Pharma in the first place. From the first link:

The University of Montana on Friday announced it’s largest grant in school history, a $33.4 million award from the National Institutes of Health for the development of opioid vaccines and their clinical trials.

The funding covers two Phase 1 clinical trials of opioid vaccines developed by UM’s Center for Translational Medicine. The collaboration includes Inimmune Corp. in Missoula and the University of Minnesota.

Dr. Jay Evans, the principle investigator on the award and director of UM’s Center for Translational Medicine, said the funding will boost the school’s ongoing research on the development of an opioid vaccine and serves as “validation of our world-class research team at UM.”

“It will allow us to advance lead opioid vaccine candidates to Phase I human clinical trials and better understand the safety and efficacy of our vaccine adjuvants, which early research has shown will be needed to increase the quantity and quality of the anti-drug antibody response in people with opioid addictions,” Evans said.

If you’re curious how a vaccine could be developed for opioid addicts, this article has the context missing in the MC article.

Personally, I don’t find anything encouraging about this news. The opioid crisis is a crime of mass murder perpetrated for profit by Big Pharma, but instead of throwing people in prison and dissolving these evil corporations, little foot soldiers of Big Pharma, like Jay Evans, get to spinoff biotech startups, using public money to develop products for private profit.

Is this how the University of Montana is trying to survive? And another question worth asking: is transforming Missoula into a haven for tech startups going to be a good thing for this community? Do Missoulians actually WANT to become a little inland silicon valley?

One thing is for sure, as tech companies flock to Missoula, or grow in Missoula, or start-up in Missoula, our housing affordability crisis will keep getting worse and worse. Unless you think it’s cool to rent a 250 square foot pod for $600 dollars.

While media like the Missoula Current become cheerleaders for this biotech trend, tune in here for the doses of reality our local media doesn’t want to talk about.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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