The experimental Zika Vaccine for the ZikaVirus has just receive the thumbs up for first human trials by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
As announced on Monday, June 20, the inventors of the drug called GLS–5700 said the medication will be used in a clinical trial involving 40 healthy people, and represents the first major step towards ultimately immunising people against Zika – which was declared a global public health emergency by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in February.
The President and CEO of US-based Inovio Pharmaceuticals, which is developing the vaccine with South Korean partner, GeneOne Life Science said,
“We are proud to have attained the approval to initiate the first Zika vaccine study in human volunteers. As of May 2016, 58 countries and territories reported continuing mosquito-borne transmission of the Zika virus; the incidences of viral infection and medical conditions caused by the virus are expanding, not contracting. We plan to dose our first subjects in the next weeks and expect to report phase I interim results later this year.”
How the Zika Vaccine, GLS-5700 Works
GLS–5700 works by stimulating the body’s immune system to defend itself against Zika. Synthetic fragments of viral DNA are injected into the skin, prompting the immune system’s T cells to generate antibodies to fight the infection.
Nevertheless, it was pointed out that even though the GLS–5700 has reached human testing, there’s no guarantee it will turn out to safely immunize people against Zika.
Although the vaccine has been tested successfully in small and large animal models, they said the clinical trials in humans could take several years to demonstrate that the treatment is safe, and there’s no guarantee it will ultimately prove effective or make it through subsequent testing phases.
Fortunately, GLS–5700 isn’t the only Zika vaccine currently in development. An Indian company called Bharat Biotech is researching Zika vaccine development in animals, while French pharmaceutical company Sanofi SA is expected to begin human trials with one of its drugs later this year.
And so the research for an authentic vaccine continues as other research institutes such as the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and scientists from the University of Texas Medical Centre has shown promising results which awaits human trials and clinical trials respectively.
Despite all hurdles facing these vaccine trials, there’s reason to have hope. And just as epidemiologist Anna Durbin from Johns Hopkins University, who is involved with the NIAID vaccine effort said,
“Always, the first vaccine to go into clinical trial is important.
“It means the FDA has reviewed it, and I’m sure is formulating questions and getting ready for additional candidates to submit their investigational drug applications,” she added. “It shows progress and momentum, and we just need to keep momentum going.”