Bharat Biotech unveils world’s first Zika vaccine candidates

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Scientists at Hyderabad-based vaccines manufacturer Bharat Biotech International Pvt. Ltd have claimed that they have developed the world's first vaccine against the Zika Virus to protect humans against the outbreak of the mosquito-borne disease that may cause birth defects when pregnant women are infected. It is also the world’s first company to make Chikungunya vaccine.

The Bharat Biotech has unveiled two vaccine candidates which includes a recombinant vaccine and an inactivated vaccine against Zika virus. It has filed for global patent for the vaccine.These two candidates are in an advanced stage of development and can be made available soon once pre-clinical trials proves to be successful and Indian Government fast-tracks the required regulatory approvals. While the recombinant vaccine might take time, the pre-clinical testing of the inactivated vaccine in animals would be completed in next five months.

Bharat Biotech was able to achieve this medical breakthrough because it had earlier successfully developed vaccine on vector borne Chikungunya disease which is also transmitted through the Aedes mosquito. It has filed patent for Chikungunya vaccine as well which would be entering Phase-1 trials shortly.The company has invested over $ 150 million since its inception to build its portfolio of vaccines, which included Rotovac (rotavirus vaccine) and Typbar TCV, typhoid conjugate vaccine.

​​Race is on to develop Zika vaccine

Companies across the world are racing to develop vaccines against Zika virus, including French pharmaceutical company Sanofi SA, NewLink Genetic Corp. in the US, and Australian company Sementis Ltd. which is working in collaboration with University of South Australia. Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccine division of drugmaker Sanofi, on Tuesday launched a vaccine research and development project aimed at preventing infections from the virus.

The two vaccines are :-

  • Inactivated vaccine: Inactivated vaccine bascially consist of  disease-causing microbe which is killed with chemicals, radiation or heat. These microbes are grown under controlled conditions and are rendered non-infectious in order to reduce antigenicity. It is more stable and safer vaccine compared to vaccines using live microbes. 
  • Recombinant DNA vaccine: It is produced through the recombinant DNA technology. This technology involves inserting the DNA encoding antigen (such as a bacterial surface protein) that stimulates immune response. It generally uses an attenuated virus or bacterium to introduce microbial DNA to cells of the body.

​Zika is now present in 23 countries. Brazil, the hardest-hit country, has reported around 3,500 cases of the devastating birth defect called microcephaly. The Zika virus is spread by mosquitoes of the Aedes genus, which can breed in a pool of water as small as a bottle cap and usually bite during the day.


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