Promising Inovio vaccine and new guidelines offer hope against Zika

US biotech Inovio has reported encouraging results in its early Zika vaccine studies, while the World Health Organisation (WHO) and US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have released guidelines for a Zika strategy and blood collection safety, respectively.

According to Inovio, pre-clinical studies of its Zika vaccine candidate in mice have reportedly produced “robust and broad T cell responses” in mice.

The results were achieved using Inovio’s own vaccine and electroporation delivery technology, resulting in detectable specific antibodies in the blood of all vaccinated mice.

Inovio’s President and CEO Dr J Joseph Kim commented on the rapid generation of a vaccine candidate “that shows promise as a preventive and treatment.

“We will next test the vaccine in non-human primates and initiate clinical product manufacturing. We plan to initiate phase 1 human testing of our Zika vaccine before the end of 2016.”

The vaccine, co-developed with Korea-based GeneOne Life, is one of at least 15 candidates currently in development.

Sanofi Pasteur and Sementis have both recently launched their own candidate development, while India’s Bharat Biotech and the US National Institutes for Health are currently leading the pack, according to the WHO.

Meanwhile, both the WHO and FDA have issued plans to tackle the Zika pandemic.

The WHO has outlined a new ‘Global Emergency Response Plan’ – which will cost an estimated $56 million to implement – to help fast-track vaccines as well as aid research into how the virus spreads and how to control it.

The FDA has also issued guidelines in an attempt to reduce the risk of Zika transmission to the US. It recommends deferring blood collection in areas where the virus is suspected to be circulating as well as ensuring the use of FDA-approved pathogen reduction technology during collection.

The news follows a reported increase in cases of the potentially Zika-linked condition microcephaly in Brazil over the past week, rising from 4,314 to 4,443. Brazil’s health ministry also confirmed a link between Zika infection and microcephaly had been established in 41 cases.

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