As Zika cases continue to rise around the world -- and in the United States -- with associated increases in Guillain-Barre syndrome and congenital birth defects, the need for a safe and effective vaccine to protect against Zika virus is greater than ever. IDRI (Infectious Disease Research Institute) has been awarded a $491,000, two-year grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, to rapidly develop a novel, safe and effective Zika vaccine by designing and formulating new RNA-based vaccine candidates.
As part of the grant, IDRI scientists, led by Dan Stinchcomb, Ph.D., Sr. Vice President for Vaccine Development Viral Disease Programs, and Neal van Hoeven, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, will leverage the Zika virus' own machinery for expression of immunogenic proteins. "This is a method of highjacking the virus's own machinery to express proteins in order to rapidly make a safe and effective vaccine," Stinchcomb explained.
According to Stinchcomb, the advantage of RNA vaccines is that they are based on the genetic sequence of the virus. "RNA encoding protein antigens can be rapidly synthesized and manufactured," he said. "And we can manufacture these vaccines more rapidly because RNA vaccines are fully synthetic and don't require growth in eggs, cells or bacteria. When delivered, the RNA vaccine can effectively induce protective immune responses quickly."
One of IDRI's goals is to develop platforms that can be used for rapid response to infectious disease outbreaks. "The recent development of vector independent RNA based delivery systems represents a practical platform for rapid and inexpensive development of new vaccine candidates," said Steve Reed, Ph.D., IDRI's Founder, President & Chief Scientific Officer. "This grant allows us to perform proof-of-concept studies for an RNA vaccine platform that could be applicable to other emerging infectious diseases."
About IDRI: As a nonprofit global health organization, IDRI (Infectious Disease Research Institute) takes a comprehensive approach to combat infectious diseases, combining the high-quality science of a research organization with the product development capabilities of a biotech company to create new diagnostics, drugs and vaccines. Founded in 1993, IDRI has 125 employees headquartered in Seattle with nearly 100 partners/collaborators around the world. For more information, visit http://www.idri.org.
NOTE: Research described in this press release is supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease of the National Institutes of Health under award number 1R21AI128992-01. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.