Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc. is making swift progress in the development of a vaccine to prevent against Zika virus infection. Their latest study – the results of which were published in the journal, npj Vaccines – has demonstrated how their synthetic DNA-based vaccine can protect against infection, brain damage and death caused by the Zika virus.
As transmission of the mosquito-borne Zika virus continues to grow, biotech companies are racing to develop a vaccine. There are currently no regulator-approved vaccines for the prevention of Zika infection, which has been linked to cases of microcephaly and other birth defects in newborns.
Inovio’s DNA-based vaccine was able to confer protection against the Zika virus on 100 percent of animals which were administered the vaccination. This preclinical study also found that the vaccine prevented the Zika-associated degeneration in the hippocampal and cerebral cortex regions of brain, compared to infected animals who were not given the vaccine.
“Our results support the critical importance of immune responses for both preventing infection as well as ameliorating disease caused by the Zika virus,” said Dr. David B. Weiner, lead researcher and Executive Vice President and Director of the Vaccine Center at The Wistar Institute and the W.W. Smith Charitable Trust Professor in Cancer Research at Wistar. “As the threat of Zika continues, these results provide insight into a new aspect of the possibly protective ability of such a vaccine as a preventative approach for Zika infection.”
This preclinical study was the first to test a vaccine in a Zika-succeptible animal model. Previous studies of Zika vaccine candidates have only been performed in animal models that carry a resistance to the virus.
“Working with Wistar, we have clearly demonstrated the power and the speed of our product development platform when we and our collaborators moved our Zika vaccine from the bench to human studies in less than six months, taking advantage of our platform to help in this outbreak situation,” said Dr. J. Joseph Kim, President and CEO of Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
The Zika vaccine is currently being tested in two human clinical trials, with Phase I results expected to be reported by the end of this year. The vaccine is being developed by Inovio, along with The Wistar Institute, and GeneOne Life Science Inc.