In the early 1990's, cocaine was destroying lives across America and
medical scientists had few answers. President Bush asked whether it
would be possible someday to develop a vaccine against cocaine addiction.
At Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons
in New York City, Don Landry, M.D., Ph.D., heard the President's
words as a challenge and developed a radical idea: Create a medication
that would circulate harmlessly inside the blood stream waiting
to attack and destroy entering cocaine molecules, breaking them
apart before the cocaine could get to the brain where cocaine
becomes a powerful, addictive intoxicant. Dr. Landry believed that
such a medication could cripple cocaine's power with a single injection,
serving as a true vaccine against this form of addiction. According
to his theory, the same medication would also be an effective
antidote for cocaine overdose.
But Landry's idea was so starkly different from the then-mainstream
research paths that it was rejected by the usual funding sources.
Nevertheless, cocaine was penetrating much of U.S. society and
there was (and still is) no medication available to treat cocaine
addicts. The White House Drug Czar's high tech R&D; unit, CTAC,
was eager to see a treatment breakthrough on cocaine and was mandated
by Congress to be open to new thinking. So CTAC provided
research funds to launch Landry's potentially historic work. At roughly
the same time, CTAC sponsorship also went to a few other brilliant
scientists whose concepts held the possibility of desperately needed
breakthroughs in the cocaine crisis.
"Laboratory rats treated with this
antibody respond to cocaine the
same way they respond to water and
doses of cocaine that would otherwise
kill them have no effect at all."
Dr. Don Landry,
Cocaine Vaccine Developer
Today, Dr. Landry has partially succeeded. He has created an artificial
catalytic antibody that attaches to cocaine molecules as they
enter the bloodstream at reaction rates that render cocaine inert in
laboratory rats. Dr. Landry is working to sharply increase the reaction
rates to make the medication effective for human beings. If he
succeeds, he will have achieved his dream: a perfect blocker against
the drug, "No matter how they ingest the cocaine, by smoking it as in
crack, by inhaling it or by injecting it."
If Dr. Landry's medication can be made powerful enough to work in
humans, it would give cocaine addicts a safe and effective way to
begin new lives of sobriety—from behind a cocaine-proof wall. Recently,
Columbia University signed a contract with a pharmaceutical
manufacturer. The company will pay for a major portion of the next
step in Dr. Landry's project.