Sanofi Launches R&D to Combat Zika Virus
Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines division of Sanofi, has launched a vaccine research and development project targeting the prevention of Zika virus infection and disease.
Sanofi Pasteur is already involved with vaccines for viruses in the same family as the Zika virus (ZIKV), with licensed vaccines against yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis and, most recently, dengue. Sanofi Pasteur’s R&D and industrial infrastructure for the newly licensed vaccine for dengue, Dengvaxia, can be used to help understand the spread of ZIKV and potentially speed identification of a vaccine candidate for further clinical development, according to the company
The ZIKV is closely related to Dengue; it belongs to the same Flavivirus genus, is spread by the same species of mosquito, and has a similar acute clinical presentation. Common symptoms caused by a Zika infection include fever, rash, joint swelling, conjunctivitis, and headaches. However, there is a growing body of evidence linking Zika infection in pregnant women with an increased risk of a severe congenital complication at birth called microcephaly. Normally a rare condition, microcephaly results in an abnormally small head impairing brain development.
Until recently, ZIKV was considered a rare and seemingly benign virus. However in May 2015, the Pan American Health Organization issued an alert regarding the first confirmed ZIKV infection in Brazil, and since then, it has spread across the Americas. In the United States, authorities have reported a locally transmitted case of Zika in Puerto Rico, with reports of cases in continental United States in returning travelers. The World Health Organization held a meeting on February 1, 2016, to address short-term and longer-term measures against the Zika virus infection and disease, including intensifying research and development efforts for Zika virus vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.