US to fund $19.8M Takeda research on Zika vaccine

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THE United States government will provide up to $19.8 million in funding to Japanese pharmaceutical company Takeda to develop a Zika vaccine, the company reported in a statement last week.

Takeda was selected from among several pharmaceutical firms applying for the grant from the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).

BARDA is a division of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) within the US Department of Health and Human Services.

The $19.8 million was described as “initial funding” in a related statement from BARDA, and is intended to cover development of a potential vaccine through the Phase I clinical trial phase.

BARDA’s statement explained that, “Under the agreement, Takeda’s Vaccine Business Unit will develop an inactivated, adjuvanted, whole Zika virus vaccine. They will develop and produce the investigational vaccine, complete pre-clinical studies, submit an Investigational New Drug Application to the US Food and Drug Administration and execute a Phase I clinical trial.”

The vaccine will be developed and manufactured at Takeda’s facilities in Hikari, Japan, the company said.

There is currently no vaccine or medicine for Zika, and infection during pregnancy is suspected to be linked to a serious birth defect called microcephaly, as well as other serious health problems. Many people infected with Zika will have no symptoms or only mild symptoms that last several days to a week.

On February 1, the World Health Organization declared the Zika outbreak to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. On February 8, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention elevated its Zika response efforts to its highest response level, Level 1, which began the process of finding a developer for a vaccine.

In the Philippines, the Department of Health reported last week that there are so far eight recorded cases of Zika infection in the country.

A recent study conducted by a joint British-Canadian research team concluded that the Philippines is among the countries most at risk for the spread of Zika, because of its favorable environment for the mosquitoes that transmit the virus, its high population, high volume of travelers between the country and areas of the world where Zika infection is spreading and relatively unsophisticated public health system.

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