Sanofi Pasteur has partnered with Walter Reed Army Institute of Research to create a vaccine against the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne disease known to cause birth and other neurological defects.
The deal, which could accelerate effort to find an inoculation for humans, involves the transferring of Walter Reed’s Zika purified inactivated virus vaccine technology to Sanofi, which in turn would share data, biologic samples from completed non-human primate studies and biologic samples from its own safety studies, CNN reported.
Without setting a date for a finished product, Sanofi said it plans to develop an inactivated vaccine promptly to pre-empt other efforts by companies and researchers. Inovio Pharmaceuticals is currently making its own DNA vaccine.
“We’re working on the inactivated vaccine approach, which we think is more directly applicable,” CNN quoted Sanofi’s R&D project lead for Zika Dr. Jon Heinrichs as saying.
Sanofi expects to have the vaccine ready for human clinical trials this year, according to a report by The Street.
This is not the first time that the two have worked together. Heinrichs said both Sanofi and Walter Reed collaborated on several programmes in the past, including a dengue virus vaccine. Also, both have extensive experience with this particular type of virus.
According to Dr. Stephen Thomas, Zika programme lead at Walter Reed, Zika is a kind of flavivirus, which they have been working on for more than a hundred years.
Sanofi, for its part, currently has three flavivirus vaccines. They intend to use their expertise on these vaccines to the Zika virus, said Heinrichs, adding that the company has been researching in Latin America for a long time, allowing them to quickly act on Zika.
On the other hand, Walter Reed had been studying Zika strains obtained from the Philippines and Thailand. Thomas said the matter is a Department of Defense concern since several of the institute’s members are deployed in areas where Zika is actively transmitted.
In addition, the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention claims that mosquito is the deadliest animal in the world due to its ability to spread disease.
Walter Reed received from CDC a strain from Puerto Rico, which Thomas and his team “killed” and “purified” in order to conduct processes that could develop an inactivated vaccine.
Thomas said Sanofi’s role will be on the “big manufacturing” side of things, producing millions of doses of vaccine once it is completed and proven safe and effective for human use.
Last year, Sanofi unveiled Dengvaxia, the world’s first dengue vaccine. It was recently launched in the Philippines, which were administered to millions of schoolchildren. MIMS