First Zika Vaccine Trials to Begin Within Weeks

WASHINGTON TIMES — Federal regulators have greenlighted the first human trial of a vaccine for Zika virus, a pair of pharmaceutical companies said Monday, though a fully approved shot against the mosquito-borne disease could still be more than a year away.

Inovio Pharmaceuticals and GeneOne Life Sciences said they have 40 healthy participants lined up for doses of its DNA-based vaccine, which produced robust antibodies against Zika during animal testing.

“We are proud to have attained the approval to initiate the first Zika vaccine study in human volunteers,” Inovio President and CEO J. Joseph Kim said, noting 58 countries were experiencing local transmission as of May. “The incidences of viral infection and medical conditions caused by the virus are expanding, not contracting.”

Multiple entities are pursuing a vaccine for Zika, which is causing birth defects in infants born to infected mothers in Latin America, though any product must go through a series of trials and regulatory approvals before it is widely distributed.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of infectious diseases at the National Institutes of Health, has said a finished vaccine might not be available until early 2018.

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