US Funds Zika Vaccine as Cases Mount

September 27, 2016
Gale Scott

As Zika cases mount, US funds a second vaccine project. Sanofi Pasteur and Walter Reed Army Research are getting $43.18 million. There are now at least 749 pregnant women in the US States with known Zika infections.

As Zika concerns mount in the US, the federal government has agreed to fund a second drug company’s quest to develop a vaccine to prevent Zika infection.

Sanofi Pasteur will get $43.18 million in funding from the US Health and Human Service’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), money to be used for phase 2 trials once the vaccine is ready. That is expected to be in 2018. The vaccine uses purified inactivated virus (ZPIV)

Phase 1 trials have already begun. The contract also has an option to fund phase 3 trials if things go well.

“Given the devastating effects that this infectious disease can have on babies of infected mothers and the fact that the disease appears to rapidly spread, Sanofi Pasteur decided to get involved early on”, said David Loew, Sanofi Executive Vice President and Head of Sanofi Pasteur.

As of Sept. 21, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there have been 19,706 Zika cases reported in US territories and 3,358 cases in US States. Of the latter group, 43 have been acquired locally, one in a laboratory, and the rest through travel.

The CDC also said 28 of the US States cases were sexually transmitted and eight caused Gillain-Barre syndrome.

Pregnant women are at particular risk, since the virus is associated with microcephaly and brain abnormalities in exposed fetuses. As of Sept. 15, 749 pregnant women in the US States are known to have had Zika infections and 1,348 pregnant women in the US territories.

Earlier this month, BARDA authorized funding of $20 million to Takeda Pharmaceutical. According to Reuters, HHS has also spent $433 million so far to support Zika response and preparedness.

Sanofi Pasteur has been working with Walter Reed Army Institute of Research since July to co-develop the ZPIV vaccine.

The company has developed several vaccines against other flaviviruses, including yellow fever, dengue and Japanese encephalitis.

Sanofi's headquarters are in Paris, France.