Health Care

Major Grant Will Accelerate Startup's Work On Substance-abuse Treatment

By Jenny Callison, posted May 3, 2023
OpiAID officials (from left) David Reeser and Tyler Sugden (photo courtesy of OpiAID)
A Wilmington-based biotechnology startup has received a major grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a division of the National Institutes of Health.
OpiAID, whose mission is to improve the lives and recovery of people with opioid use disorder (OUD), has announced receipt of a $2.8 million Fast Track grant. The funds will be used to study the biometrics of people in treatment for Opioid Use Disorder, to further develop and refine the company’s solution, and to test it through clinical trials.
“The goal of the study is to better understand the biometric changes that occur in individuals with OUD who are undergoing treatment,” the news release stated. “The findings will provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of different treatment approaches and help to improve the quality of care for people with OUD.”
OpiAID plans to use the Fast Track grant to do the work necessary to gain FDA approval for its solution so it can then be commercialized, according to OpiAID CEO David Reeser.
The $2.8 million will be released to OpiAID in two parts, Reeser said Wednesday. The first allocation of nearly $320,000 will support the first phase of the study. When that is completed successfully, the NIDA will release the remaining funds.  
“The idea of the ‘fast track’ is to get out the most promising and innovative solutions to address a problem,” Reeser said. “It’s the most competitive grant in the nation to win. You can get a perfect score [on the grant application] and not win.”
The company, co-founded by Reeser in 2018, employs 15 people and was the Health Care category winner in 2021 of the Greater Wilmington Business Journal’s Coastal Entrepreneur Award. Its early work has been supported by grants from the NIH and other government agencies.
In the upcoming study, OpiAID will collaborate with Wilmington-based Coastal Horizons Center, which provides mental health and substance abuse treatment in New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender counties.
“Coastal Horizons is well known and well regarded,” Reeser said. “We will do clinical trials at their location, which is one of our research sites. They are going to be one of the most innovative clinics in the world; the first to leverage biometrics to improve care. They will literally be the example.”
The relationship with OpiAID and application of its data-based personal treatment plans will be beneficial for Coastal Horizons clients, officials say.
“…OpiAID's services have the potential to be a game-changer for providing specific client interventions,” Rachel Crouse, clinical director at Coastal Horizons, said in the release. “OpiAID’s timely and actionable insights support improved clinical decision-making, allowing for just-in-time interventions to prevent relapse and potentially save lives.”
The opioid epidemic continues to be a major public health crisis. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services website states that statistics from 2021, the most recent available, show that 4,041 people in North Carolina lost their lives to overdose that year, a 22% increase from the previous year.
“With more than 107,000 deaths from opioid overdoses reported in the United States in 2022 alone, and with fentanyl’s prevalence, things are only getting worse,” OpiAID chief operating officer Tyler Sugden said in the company’s release. “OpiAID is committed to finding new and innovative ways to address this crisis, and this notice of award will help to support that goal.”
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