CHAPEL HILL — Cessation Therapeutics, a biotechnology company that focuses on developing treatments for substance abuse, has received a new grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to support fentanyl overdose treatment.

The grant will be a multi-year award and is expected to total $14.8 million for Cessation and partner McLean Hospital, a psychiatric affiliate of Harvard Medical School.

Chapel Hill biotech secures OK for human tests of potential counter to fentanyl overdoses

The grant is intended to support the development of a subcutaneous formulation of the anti-fentanyl monoclonal antibody, CSX-1004 SQ. CSX-1004 “sequesters” fentanyl molecules, neutralizing them in the bloodstream before they can reach the brain. When delivered properly, the formulation has the potential to stop or reverse an overdose, and can also treat fentanyl-related opioid use disorder (OUD).

This grant will fund various tasks, including the formulation, development, and manufacturing of CSX-1004 SQ. It is also intended to support the evaluation of fentanyl effects during a relapse following treatment with the drug.

Finding ways to make lives of opioid use disorder better: Wilmington firm lands $2.8M for research

The use of synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, has become a major public health concern. In the U.S. alone, there were almost 76,000 fentanyl-related deaths last year. Fentanyl stands as one of the leading causes of death for Americans 18 to 45 years old. Locally, a UNC journalist recently uncovered fentanyl poisoning as the cause of 4 deaths in the UNC community over the last 20 months.

This is Cessation Therapeutics’ second grant for work on CSX-1004. An earlier grant was used to support studies of the formulation delivered as an infusion, which resulted in an investigational product currently in Phase I studies. The company also raised more than $5.7 million in funding in May of last year.