Sanofi Teams With U.S. Military on Zika Vaccine Development

  • Reed Institute to transfer vaccine technology to Sanofi
  • Sanofi responsible for vaccine production, clinical strategy

Sanofi will partner with the U.S Walter Reed Army Institute of Research to develop a Zika vaccine candidate using an inactivated version of the virus.

Walter Reed, a military biomedical research institute within the Department of Defense, will transfer its purified inactivated virus vaccine technology to Sanofi’s vaccines division. The Paris-based drugmaker will be responsible for handling human trials, improving production yields, and creating a clinical and regulatory strategy, according to a statement Wednesday.

Sanofi is the only major pharmaceutical company that has been actively pushing to develop a vaccine for Zika, a mosquito-borne virus that has been spreading across the Americas and is a major threat mainly to pregnant women, as it can trigger severe birth defects. The partnership will open the door for a broader collaboration with the U.S. government, Sanofi said.

Researchers at the Army’s Walter Reed institute were part of a team that recently identified two vaccines that gave mice full protection against a Brazilian strain of Zika, including one made from a purified inactivated form of the virus. Under the Sanofi agreement, the institute will share its data and biologic samples from human and primate studies. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority have also been doing pre-clinical development. NIAID will sponsor a series of early stage human trials of the vaccine while the technology transfer process to Sanofi is occurring.

“We’re looking at this from a short- and long-term perspective, collaborating to get into the clinic quicker to provide a vaccine in response to the current emergency,” John Shiver, senior vice president of R&D at Sanofi Pasteur, said in the statement.

Sanofi will continue to evaluate its own technology, used in its dengue fever vaccine, but that pathway will take longer to get a Zika candidate into human trials, he said.

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