Indian firm develops Zika vaccine candidates

The World Health Organization has reported 22 countries and territories in Americas from where the transmission of Zika virus has been reported. Speaking to The Hindu , Krishna Ella, Chairman and Managing Director of the company, said the two candidates were in an advanced stage of development and could be ready soon. “In the coming two weeks, we will be able to start animal tests of one of them. Since this is a pandemic situation, we are hoping that the Indian government will move quickly to give approvals for the trials,” he said.

Bharat Biotech submitted necessary information to the Indian Council of Medical Research four days ago. The company is now planning to seek Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s help in expediting regulatory clearances. “When Ebola vaccine candidates were being discussed, the company had skipped Phase-II trials and went on to Phase-III with a small sample size. Given the urgency of the situation, something of that sort will be required,” Dr. Ella said. At present, getting regulatory approvals for conducting clinical trials can take up to 6-8 months.

Bharat Biotech filed patents for both candidates in July 2015, Dr. Ella said. Since the company had already worked on chikungunya, this was the next logical step. “At the time we started working on the Zika vaccine, there was not a market incentive or any demand for it, largely because the symptoms were mild. But we were already working on chikungunya, and our hypothesis was that the same vector transmitted this disease, so we thought we needed to look at this aspect as well,” he said.

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