Sanofi Pasteur commits to development of Zika vaccine

Sanofi Pasteur – Sanofi’s vaccine division – has launched a research and development programme to develop a vaccine against the Zika virus.

The company already markets vaccines for yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis and dengue fever – all of which belong to the same viral family as the Zika virus.

Sanofi says its new dengue fever vaccine Dengvaxia is particularly relevant, as its expertise against this virus could help speed up the production of a Zika vaccine.

Dengue fever shares many similarities with Zika virus, including it being spread by the Aedes mosquito and its symptoms, which include fever, joint swelling, conjunctivitis and headaches.

Other plans for developing a Zika vaccine have come from research institutions and small biotech companies, including Inovio Pharmaceuticals, who have given a predicted timeframe for an emergency vaccine reaching patients around the end of 2016.

Dr. Nicholas Jackson, Global Head of Research for Sanofi Pasteur and leader of their new Zika vaccine project, said: “Sanofi Pasteur is responding to the global call to action to develop a Zika vaccine given the disease’s rapid spread and possible medical complications”.

Sanofi Pasteur Head of Research and Development Dr. John Shiver added: “Our invaluable collaborations with scientific and public health experts, both globally and in the regions affected by the outbreaks of Zika virus, together with the mobilisation of our best experts will expedite efforts to research and develop a vaccine for this disease”.

Efforts for the production of a Zika vaccine have escalated following last week’s declaration of the Zika virus as a global emergency by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The decision was in response to the sharp increase in cases of microcephaly in Latin America, especially Brazil. The link between pregnant women becoming infected and unborn children developing the condition is not yet scientifically established, but strongly suspected. Global public health leaders are also concerned by Zika’s rapid spread across the Americas, a lack of population immunity, and an absence of publically-available vaccines, treatment or rapid diagnostic tests for Zika infection.

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