Vaccination against cocaine using a modifiable dendrimer nanoparticle platform

Jeffrey A. Lowell, Emre Dikici, Pratibha M. Joshi, Ralf Landgraf, Vance P. Lemmon, Sylvia Daunert, Sari Izenwasser, Pirouz Daftarian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Pharmacological therapies for the treatment of cocaine addiction have had disappointing efficacy, and the lack of recent developments in the clinical care of cocaine-addicted patients indicates a need for novel treatment strategies. Recent studies have shown that vaccination against cocaine to elicit production of antibodies that reduce concentrations of free drug in the blood is a promising method to protect against the effects of cocaine and reduce rates of relapse. However, the poorly immunogenic nature of cocaine remains a major hurdle to active immunization. Therefore, we hypothesized that strategies to increase targeted exposure of cocaine to the immune system may produce a more effective vaccine. To specifically direct an immune response against cocaine, in the present study we have conjugated a cocaine analog to a dendrimer-based nanoparticle carrier with MHC II-binding moieties that previously has been shown to activate antigen-presenting cells necessary for antibody production. This strategy produced a rapid, prolonged, and high affinity anti-cocaine antibody response without the need for an adjuvant. Surprisingly, additional evaluation using multiple adjuvant formulations in two strains of inbred mice found adjuvants were either functionally redundant or deleterious in the vaccination against cocaine using this platform. The use of conditioned place preference in rats after administration of this vaccine provided proof of concept for the ability of this vaccine to diminish cocaine reward. Together these data demonstrate the intrinsic efficacy of an immune-targeting dendrimer-based cocaine vaccine, with a vast potential for design of future vaccines against other poorly immunogenic antigens by substitution of the conjugated cargo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7989-7997
Number of pages9
Issue number50
StatePublished - Nov 25 2020


  • Antibody
  • Cocaine
  • Conjugate
  • Dendrimer
  • Hapten
  • Vaccine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • veterinary(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases


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