What if there was a shot that you could get in a doctor’s office to negate the pleasurable effects of smoking a cigarette? It would last six months or a year, and then you might need a booster shot to prevent a relapse. Would you get it or recommend it to a family member or colleague who smokes? Would you give it to a teenage son or daughter who started hanging around with friends who smoke?
Those are questions that waft to the top of your mind when you tour Selecta Biosciences, a Watertown company that said last week it had begun the first clinical trial of a product it calls SEL-068: a nicotine vaccine. In the same way a flu vaccine revs up your body’s immune system to round up flu viruses, Selecta’s vaccine would train your immune system to capture nicotine molecules in the bloodstream, barring them from entering your brain. Smoking a cigarette would have none of the calming, appetite-reducing, or focus-sharpening effects that smokers seek.