New grants in mHealth, fentanyl overdose

Department news | September 29, 2022

With $24 million in new grants so far this academic year, we cannot begin to capture all of the exciting work done by our researchers. We will briefly profile two recent grants to give a bit of a glimpse of the wide range of exciting work going on in the department’s research labs.

Dror Ben-Zeev, PhD, received a R01 award from the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) for “Combining mHealth and nurse-delivered care to improve the outcomes of people with serious mental illness in West Africa”. In West Africa, the hardships of serious mental illnesses (SMI) such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are compounded by pervasive societal stigma, scarce treatment options, systematic exclusion, neglect and abuse. Most people with SMI in West Africa receive care from traditional and faith healers who have no formal training in assessment, treatment of SMI, or preservation of human rights and patient safety. Dr. Ben-Zeev’s multinational team will deploy and evaluate M&M: a dual-pronged intervention package comprised of a smartphone system designed to train healers and support their delivery of brief evidence-based psychosocial interventions (M-Healer) combined with pharmacotherapy delivered directly to the patients they are treating via visiting nurse (Mobile Nurse). Learn more [].

Marco Pravetoni, PhD, received an award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) for “Development of a monoclonal antibody to reverse overdose from fentanyl and its analogs: from manufacturing to clinical trials.” The incidence of fatal drug overdoses has dramatically increased due to the proliferation and widespread availability of fentanyl and its analogs, often found in street drug mixtures. Fatal drug overdoses totaled more than 92,000 in 2020. Current medications are not always sufficient to prevent or reverse overdose from fentanyl and its analogs. As a complementary strategy to current medications, Dr. Pravetoni’s team has developed humanized monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) against fentanyl and its analogs. Anti-fentanyl mAbs can be co-administered with standard of care treatments for Opioid Use Disorder and/or overdose and may offer longer-lasting clinical benefits over opioid receptor antagonists. As far as we know, this is the only award funded by the National Institutes of Health to move an anti-fentanyl mAb to Phase I clinical trials.