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Takeda Gets Up to $312 Million in U.S. Funding for Zika Vaccine

  • Japanese drugmaker will start initial clinical trials in 2017
  • Company developing vaccines for dengue, norovirus, polio

Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. won U.S. government funding to develop a vaccine for the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne pathogen that’s spreading rapidly through the Americas.

The Osaka, Japan-based company was awarded a contract for as much as $312 million from the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, according to a statement on Thursday. The drugmaker will receive $19.8 million to cover the development through initial trials, and potentially more during later phases. Takeda will start human trials in the second half of next year, Rajeev Venkayya, the company’s head of global vaccines, said in a telephone interview.

There are no drugs or vaccines available yet to fight the virus, which is dangerous to women because it can cause brain damage in babies and was linked to some cases of neurological disorders in adults. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, an agency of HHS, started one of the first human trials for a Zika vaccine in early August. Companies from French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi to Pennsylvania-based Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc. also are working toward a vaccine to combat the virus.

Takeda will harness its work against dengue, a virus from the same family, to develop a vaccine against Zika. The company also is developing programs for infectious diseases such as norovirus and polio.

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