- India-based Bharat Biotech last week revealed it has been working on two Zika vaccine candidates for over a year, giving the company a leg up on the global competition to find a treatment for the fast-spreading virus.
- One candidate is an inactivated vaccine, while the other is "recombinant," meaning it was created by combining genetic material from multiple sources. Bharat Biotech claims it is likely the first company in the world to file for a global patent on a Zika vaccine candidate.
- The inactivated vaccine has progressed to pre-clinical testing in animals.
Bharat Biotech began its research into the Zika virus over a year ago due to similarities between its early-stage clinical features and those of both dengue and chikungunya. While India has not reported a case of Zika, both dengue and chikungunya are prevalent in the country.
Bharat's efforts are currently focused on the "scale up and characterization of the vaccine product," according to a statement. Having been in development for over a year, Bharat has an early lead in research on Zika vaccine candidates.
But major pharma companies like Sanofi and Japan's Takeda have announced their own efforts to develop a vaccine, while others such as Pfizer and Merck said they would analyze their existing portfolios for crossover potential. Having just won approval of the world's first dengue vaccine, Sanofi believes its experience in that space will boost its work on Zika.
Bharat Biotech supplies vaccines to over 65 countries and has a portfolio over 50 patents, according to the company.
The World Health Organization on February 1st declared the Zika outbreak to be an international public health emergency, warning of its "explosive spread" through the Americas. The virus has been strongly linked to microcephaly, a condition where babies are born with abnormally small heads and inhibited brain development. So far, Brazil has suffered the brunt of the outbreak, with nearly 5,000 reported cases of microcephaly in newborns. However, that number may shift substantially as Brazilian health authorities work to confirm each case.