GeoVax Labs of Atlanta and the University of Georgia have entered a collaborative research agreement to develop a vaccination for prevention of Zika virus infections, according to a news release. GeoVax, a biotechnology company, announced it is developing the vaccine using its novel MVA-VLP vaccine platform. The company believes that it can rapidly advance a vaccine candidate to human clinical testing.
GeoVax’s senior vice president of research and development, Farshad Guirakhoo, PhD, will lead the company’s effort in developing the vaccine. Guirakhoo played pivotal roles in the development and licensure of human vaccines against Flaviviruses, including dengue and Japanese encephalitis. “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to develop a Zika vaccine,” Guirakhoo said in the release. “We will draw on lessons learned on the decades-long path to a successful dengue vaccine and develop a vaccine against Zika in the shortest time possible.”
In the collaborative research agreement, University of Georgia infectious disease researchers, led by Ted Ross, PhD, director of UGA’s Center for Vaccines and Immunology, will develop vaccine antigens that elicit broadly reactive immunity against Zika viruses from different lineages and test those vaccines in preclinical models. “Our group in the Center for Vaccines and Immunology has been focusing on developing vaccines to emerging viral agents,” Ross said in the release. “We are excited to partner with GeoVax and merge our technologies to develop an efficacious vaccine against Zika virus”.
On Feb. 1, 2016, the World Health Organization designated the Zika virus and its suspected complications in newborns an international public health emergency. The Zika epidemic has affected 24 countries in the Americas. It is transmitted by the Aedes mosquito and is expected by the WHO to reach most of the Western Hemisphere, infecting up to 4 million people by year’s end.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a travel advisory for people traveling to regions within the Zika virus outbreak, which include popular vacation destinations. Brazil, the site of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, is included in the advisory. More than 30 cases have been reported in the U.S., imported by travelers visiting affected regions, according to the release.
Other than mosquito control, no approved preventive or therapeutic products are currently available to fight Zika infections.
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