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"On Zika, we are probably the first vaccine company in the world to file a vaccine candidate patent about nine months ago,” Bharat Biotech managing director Krishna Ella told NDTV.
"...The formulated inactivated vaccine is expected to elicit a strong antibody response as we see humoral immunity offering a primary defense against Zika infection,” he told the International Business Times.
They will now be tested in animal and human trials. If those trials are successful, a vaccine could become available to the public in around four months. The best case scenario is that the biotech firm could make one million doses in that time, according to Ella.
Research into the vaccines began after the biotech firm legally imported a live Zika virus into the country last year. Ella has sought direct intervention from Prime Minister Narendra Modi since then, urging for the vaccines to be fast-tracked through clinical trials.
"The prime minister should take up this project as it helps communities like Brazil and Colombia where we can do vaccine diplomacy. We are a part of the BRICS group and we have to help them. We would love to help. We want global public health to benefit," he said.
A handful of smaller companies have also said they are working on Zika vaccines, some on more aggressive timelines. One team, a collaboration between Inovio Pharmaceuticals, the South Korean company GeneOne Life Science and academic researchers in Canada and the United States, has said its product could be ready for emergency use by this fall. Two other companies, Hawaii Biotech and the Protein Sciences Corp, also announced plans for a Zika vaccine.
Meanwhile, public health officials said government researchers were working on at least two approaches to a vaccine and hoped to begin testing one of them in early clinical trials by the end of this year. That approach is a DNA vaccine method, which creates virus-like particles when it is placed into cells. The method was tried in a vaccine for West Nile, a related virus, and was found to be safe in early trials, but never progressed because the National Institutes of Health couldn't find a company willing to develop it further, said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the NIH.
Researchers will try the same approach with Zika by inserting a Zika gene into the same platform, in place of the West Nile gene. "I do not anticipate that we will have any problem partnering with pharmaceutical companies now," he told reporters Thursday, referring to Zika.
Fauci added, however, "While these approaches are promising, it is important to understand that we will not have a widely available, safe and effective Zika vaccine this year and probably not even in the next few years."
The method was tried in a vaccine for West Nile, a related virus, and was found to be safe in early trials, but never progressed because the National Institutes of Health couldn't find a company willing to develop it further