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Friday, Dec 13, 2019

India comes up with world’s first Zika vaccine candidate

Within days of the US government and French pharma major Sanofi announcing they had launched an effort to develop a Zika vaccine, Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech said on Wednesday it had two variants ready for pre-clinical studies, one recombinant and the other inactivated.

business Updated: Feb 04, 2016 15:04 IST
Three-month-old Daniel, who was born with microcephaly, undergoes physical therapy at the Altino Ventura foundation in Recife, Brazil.
Three-month-old Daniel, who was born with microcephaly, undergoes physical therapy at the Altino Ventura foundation in Recife, Brazil. (AP)
         

Within days of the US government and French pharma major Sanofi announcing they had launched an effort to develop a Zika vaccine, Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech said on Wednesday it had two variants ready for pre-clinical studies, one recombinant and the other inactivated.

A recombinant vaccine involves DNA encoding that stimulates an immune response while an inactivated one consists of virus particles grown under controlled conditions and rendered non-infectious.

“We have two candidate vaccines in development. One of them is an inactivated vaccine that has reached the stage of pre-clinical testing in animals,” company chairman and managing director Dr Krishna Ella said, adding that pre-clinical trials would take five months, after which the process for regulatory approval would commence.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) will examine the claim this week. “It’s too early to get excited but it is worth looking at. The committee will first need to validate the claim, but looking at the global situation, we will work as quickly as possible,” said Dr Soumya Swaminathan, director-general of the umbrella research organisation. “We constituted a scientific committee on?Friday to examine the claim.”

The ICMR scientific committee has invited researchers from Bharat Biotech to present their vaccine candidate for approval.

A municipal health worker shows off a test tube with larvae of Zika virus vector, the Aedes aegypti mosquito, as part of the city's efforts to prevent the spread of the Zika, in Guatemala City. (REUTERS)

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

The World Health Organization (WHO) took note of the development and issued a statement. “We have just been informed about the Zika vaccine candidate that Bharat Biotech has. We will examine it from the scientific point of view and see the feasibility of taking it forward,” a WHO spokesperson said.

Read: Along came a virus: Here’s why people are panicking about Zika

The ministry of health and family welfare is focusing on surveillance to stop the virus from entering the country. “High-risk areas with breeding of the Zika-carrying aedes aegypti mosquito will be closely surveyed, apart from airports and ports. We will also be closely monitoring new births in endemic areas for cases of microcephaly,” a senior health ministry official said.

On Tuesday, the ministry released guidelines advising pregnant women against travel to Zika-affected countries after the WHO declared the virus a global public health emergency on Monday. The WHO said the “explosively spreading” virus that has been linked to birth defects in babies was an extraordinary event that could affect up to four million people in the Americas by the end of the year.

Read: In India, Zika test kits to hit market by March, cost pegged at Rs 4,500