Sanofi Pasteur to Search for Zika Vaccine

05.02.2016 -

Immediately following the decision by the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare a global emergency over the Zika virus' suspected link to birth defects, Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines division of the French drugmaker, announced the launch of a vaccine research and development project targeting the prevention of Zika virus infection and disease.

The company, which is a leader in developing vaccines for viruses in the same family as Zika virus (ZIKV), already having launched licensed vaccines against Yellow Fever, Japanese Encephalitis and, most recently, Dengue, did not give a timetable for bringing a new product to market.

Sanofi Pasteur said its expertise, in addition to its established R&D and industrial infrastructure for the newly licensed Dengue vaccine Dengvaxia, “can be rapidly leveraged to help understand the spread of ZIKV and potentially speed identification of a vaccine candidate for further clinical development.

“Our invaluable collaborations with scientific and public health experts, both globally and in the regions affected by the outbreaks of ZIKV, together with the mobilization of our best experts, will expedite efforts to research and develop a vaccine for this disease," said John Shiver, global head of R&D.

The French vaccines specialist said it is responding to the global call to action to develop a Zika vaccine, given the disease's rapid spread and possible medical complications. “In addition to the serious possibility of congenital complications associated with Zika, Sanofi Pasteur said investigations are also underway to assess another reported connection between Zika and a dangerous neurological disorder.

At a press conference, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan called for “coordinated international action” to improve detection of the virus and expedite work on a vaccine and better diagnostics, while saying curbs on travel or trade were “not necessary.”