Hyderabad firm claims Zika vaccine breakthrough

Hyderabad firm claims Zika vaccine breakthrough

Bharat Biotech to start animal trials; hopes for early clearance

Hyderabad firm claims Zika vaccine breakthrough
A Hyderabad-based biotechnology firm on Wednesday claimed to have developed two candidate vaccines to counter the Zika virus that has triggered international public health concern in the last two weeks.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) had stated that at present there is no vaccine against Zika. Until recently, the Zika virus was regarded as a mild disease that requires no specific treatment, but the emergence of a possible link to Guillain-Barré syndrome and neurological birth defects (microcephaly), seen in some affected countries, has elevated the concern level.

Recent modelling of the outbreak anticipates significant international spread by travellers from Brazil to the rest of the Americas, Europe and Asia.

Bharat Biotech of Hyderabad claims to have developed two vaccine candidates – one is inactivated and the second one is a recombinant.

“In the coming two weeks, we will be able to start the animal trials in inactivated vaccine. A recombinant vaccine using the surface antigens of the virus is being concurrently developed, but that will take more time,” Krishna Ella, chairman and managing director of Bharat Biotech, told Deccan Herald.

Typically a vaccine takes about 10-15 years to come to the market from a laboratory. Bharat Biotech took almost 14 years to commercialise its vaccine against rotavirus.

Govt approval
However, because of the global health emergency, the company hopes for a speedier regulatory approval for its Zika vaccine candidates, if they clear the animal trials.

“Since this is a pandemic situation, we hope the government will move quickly of giving requisite approvals for the trials,” he said. Four days ago, the company informed WHO and the Indian Council of Medical Research about the crude vaccines.

“We believe we have an early mover advantage in developing the Zika vaccine and are probably the first in the world to file for global patent for Zika vaccine candidates,” said Ella.

“Our interest in Zika virus, an obscure virus when we started the project a year ago, was that the clinical features at an early stage of infection are indistinguishable from that of dengue and chikungunya. Currently our efforts are towards scale up and characterisation of the vaccine product,” Ella added.

Zika is now prevalent in 23 countries. Brazil, the hardest-hit, has reported around 3,530 cases of microcephaly, a devastating birth defect, in 2015 that is suspected to be related to Zika, but the WHO has sought further investigation. The virus is spread by Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes and the infection is related to Dengue, Yellow Fever and West Nile virus.
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