Most doctors only see the heroin epidemic when they're at work. That’s not the case for Dr. Timothy Endy.
"Our family has struggled with a son with a heroin addiction,” said Endy, who is a clinical infectious disease researcher. “We went through the whole recovery, relapse, and fortunately for us he is now in recovery and doing very well.
Dr. Endy doesn't want to see more people struggle like his son. With the help of his team he's doing something about it -- creating a vaccine to prevent heroin addiction.
"We’re essentially blocking its ability to produce a high or to produce an overdose in mice," said Endy.
Before these drugs can go into testing on humans, it has to go through pretrial in labs like this. Once it does that the doctors here at upstate are saying they'll have another tool to help fight addiction.
"Among other tools like seeing a psychologist or a psychiatrist, having social work support, peer advocates, pharmacologic therapy," said Endy.
Skeptics say that focusing solely on heroin will simply lead to addicts using other drugs.
Doctors say they see that point of view, but are trying to help as many people as they can.
"When we look at the scope of the problem, if there are a hundred people with substance abuse disorders and I can be a part of making a tool that will help ten of them, that's a huge, huge impact," said Endy.
And the vaccine will benefit more than just addicts
"It's not just the person with the substance abuse disorder, it's their family, it's their community, and it’s our entire community," said Endy.
While it's not a cure for the epidemic, doctors say it's a big step that could save lives in Central New York and around the world.
"To be able to help them with all the tools that we have, which include medical assisted therapy, counselors, long term recovery programs, this will be just another tool to help them reach a sustainable recovery," said Endy.