While related to dangerous mosquito-borne viruses, dengue and West Nile, Zika has historically not been considered a serious public health threat. That changed earlier this year when Zika was designated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a Public Health Emergency based on its association with congenital and neurological disorders coupled with its rapid spread. Zika is now present in over 50 countries and with hundreds of Americans in US territories already infected with the virus, officials from the CDC and NIH warned Congress (April 2016) of the potential for mosquitoes carrying Zika to threaten the continental US this summer.
Imutex will be leveraging mosquito-borne disease vaccine technology licensed from SEEK to develop a novel Zika vaccine. The Imutex Zika vaccine has a proposed dual action mechanism, aiming to prevent infection in humans and also to control the mosquito population. It works by creating an anti-saliva immune response in humans that prevents infection. In addition, after the mosquito bites a vaccinated human host, antibodies from the human attack the gut and salivary glands of the mosquito which reduces the survival of the mosquito. If successful in its imminent Zika clinical study, Imutex will further develop the technology in other mosquito-borne illnesses, including malaria, dengue and West Nile.
Working at an accelerated pace due to the WHO declaration regarding Zika, Imutex will collaborate with the NIAID team to perform the vaccine’s “First in Man” Phase I clinical trial in partnership with the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Md., in the coming months.