Director of the National Institutes for Health Anthony Fauci, MD announced this week that a Zika vaccine could be rushed to market as early as 2018. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has already launched two phase 1 Zika vaccine trials this year, including a genetically engineered vaccine. “I’m confident we’ll get a Zika vaccine, but it’s not going to be before 2018,” said Dr. Fauci in an Infectious News Disease report.1
The experimental DNA-based Zika vaccine, VRC 319. contains genes that code proteins of the Zika virus. Researchers are developing genetically engineered vaccines to produce not only antibodies but also a cell mediated immune response that provides stronger and longer lasting immunity. Phase 1 VRC 319 trials will include 80 healthy volunteers vaccinated at different intervals and safety results are expected by the end of December.2 Depending upon the results, NIAID officials have plans to initiate a phase 2 clinical trial of the VRC319 vaccine in countries where Zika is endemic in 2017.
According to Fauci, the reason that nobody got infected with Zika during the Olympics was because it was winter but that Brazil will experience summer in January-February 2017 and “if they get another big outbreak, and we test the vaccine, we can potentially prove that it works by the middle of 2018.” By August 2016, there had been more than 6,400 Zika cases reported in the U.S. and its territories.
A second vaccine is the inactivated ZPIV vaccine, which uses the same technology as was used to develop a vaccine for Japanese Encephalitis. The ZPIV vaccine has been tested in animals and is being tested in humans by researchers at NIAID and Walter Reed Army Institute (WRAIR). That study is scheduled to be completed by fall 2018.
There are other researchers and companies racing to be the first to get a Zika vaccine licensed and on the market in the next two years. A genetically engineered FLS-5700 DNA vaccine is being developed by Inovio Phamaceuticals in partnership with researchers at academic institutions in the U.S. and Canada. The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that 26 other experimental Zika vaccines are being developed. They include a live virus Zika vaccine that was created at NIAID and one that uses a genetically engineered vesicular stomatitis virus that served as the basis for an experimental Ebola vaccine.
1 Infectious Disease News. Zika vaccine many be ready by 2018. Healio Nov. 26, 2016.
2 Infectious Disease News. NIAID launches trial testing Zika vaccine for humans. Healio Aug. 13, 2016.