Charles P. France

The Robert A. Welch Distinguished University Chair in Chemistry
The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

Long fascinated by addiction, Charles France focuses his research on the interplay between behavior and pharmacology in substance abuse. Drawing upon his background in pharmacology, psychology and chemistry, the researcher explores how drugs work in the brain and how long-term use can have adverse effects.

While he works with many classes of drugs, he started this research with opioids more than 30 years ago. Given the current opioid epidemic, Dr. France’s lab has moved into more applied research and he is excited about what he believes will be a better treatment than the naloxone now widely used to reverse overdoses and the naltrexone used to treat opioid use disorder.

“Methocinnamox, or MCAM, is an opioid receptor antagonist, originally synthesized by S. M. Husbands and J. W. Lewis, that can prevent the effects of opioids on the brain for seven days with a single injection vs. the several hours’ duration of naloxone and naltrexone,” he says, “and without adverse consequences.”

Dr. France is coordinating with the Southwest Research Institute to develop a sustained-release, long acting formulation of MCAM to test in non-human primates and is hoping to accelerate the move into Phase I human clinical trials.

In addition to treating addiction, he notes that MCAM could help protect law enforcement, military and health professionals from inadvertent contact with fentanyl derivatives so potent that tiny amounts can kill, as well as in combating potential weaponization of the lethal compounds. “Welch funding has been hugely important to my research,” Dr. France says. “It was this support that allowed us to do the initial proof-of-concept research that led to MCAM.”