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GSK and Sanofi considering developing Zika vaccine

Published on 26/01/16 at 09:47am
Mosquito image
The Aedes aegypti mosquito, which transmits the Zika virus

Pharma companies Sanofi and GSK are reviewing the possibility of using their respective inoculation technologies to develop a vaccine for the Zika virus, according to industry reports.

Reuters reports GSK as saying it is performing ‘feasibility studies’ to determine if its existing vaccine platforms could be used against the mosquito-borne virus, which can cause babies to be born with small heads and irregular infant brain development; a condition known as microcephaly.

The virus has already affected thousands of babies in Brazil, and has currently spread to more than 20 countries. The World Health Organisation warned yesterday it is likely to spread to all parts of the Americas except Canada and Chile, and it was reported today that the virus has been found in Australia in travellers returning from South America.

Zika is carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is also known to carry yellow and dengue fevers. France’s Sanofi Pasteur has recently achieved several regulatory approvals for its dengue vaccine, which cost more than $1.5 billion to develop. In December, Dengvaxia was green-lighted in Mexico and the Philippines.

Sanofi is also said to be exploring the feasibility of developing a Zika vaccine in the wake of the current outbreak. However, Japan’s Takeda and US-based MSD have both said they are not focusing on Zika at this time.

Whichever company develops a treatment first, the global community could face a long wait for an effective preventative measure for this particular disease. A GSK spokeswoman noted that any potential vaccine would likely take between 10 and 15 years to develop.

Joel Levy

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