Proving the efficiency of the newly developed Zika vaccine in non-human monkeys is a significant achievement as it essentially prognosticates the effectiveness of the vaccine in humans, further widening the scope of clinical development.
The strong global program to fight Zika has resulted in the outcome of more than 30 vaccines after the outbreak of the virus in the year 2015-2016 in Brazil associated the infection in some pregnant women with severe birth defects in infants like microcephaly and other severe fetal birth defects. Zika is spread by an infected bite of the mosquito or having sexual relationships with a Zika infected person.
Currently, there is no approved cure or treatment for Zika virus infection for public use. The aforementioned vaccine described by the researchers at John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) is an artificial subunit vaccine that employs only a small fraction of the Zika virus protein in insect cells.
Dr Axel Lehrer, JABSOM Assistant Professor of Tropical Medicine and Infectious Disease said, “We believe our vaccine candidate shows much promise particularly as it showed to require only two immunizations given three weeks apart and is a potentially safer alternative to other candidates already in clinical trials.” Lehrer believes that the vaccine proposed by his team is safer than the other candidate vaccines, considering the fact that pregnant women establish a significant part of the target population for a Zika vaccine.
The research team of JABSOM included two senior graduate students who previously served as lead authors of the scientific research papers.
Two of the scientists from the team Dr. David Clements and Dr. Jaime Horton have provided their valuable contribution to the recent publication showcasing the effectiveness in monkeys along with the collaborators from College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University, Department of Diagnostic Medicine/Pathobiology, Biosecurity Research Institute, and Bioqual Inc. of Rockville, Maryland.
Dr Lehrer said, “The intense search for a Zika remedy since early 2016 has required us to be agile, and we believe our vaccine candidate research demonstrates that such quick-turnaround results can be achieved in academic and scientific partnerships here in Hawaii. It is incredibly gratifying that two of the scientists we are training to be the future of biomedical science played key roles in gathering, analyzing and reporting their conclusions. We hope Hawaii’s citizens find that as inspiring as we do.”
The co-author of the research and the graduate student scientist Liana Medina said, “Having the opportunity to see the vaccine’s development from its very first stages as Zika E protein being produced by Dr. Kenji Obadia, at the time also a student in our department, to a vaccine that is efficacious and safe in animal models was a unique learning experience. Being a part of the process allowed me to grow as a student in this field.”
Albert To, a fellow graduate student and co-author of the research said the team’s discovery “put us on the world-stage and highlight the talent we have here in Hawaii. Being involved with this project has given me a glimpse of the type of research and results needed to progress an idea to a potential preventative therapy used by thousands of people worldwide.”