Pfizer, Merck, & other pharmas reviewing vaccine portfolios to address Zika emergency
- Pfizer, Merck, and Johnson & Johnson announced they will begin searching their own existing vaccine portfolios for crossover potential to treat Zika. They join Sanofi, Takeda, and some biotechs in intiating Zika vaccine development.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday declared the Zika outbreak an international health emergency, calling for increased international collaboration to develop treatments.
- Texas recently reported the first case of sexually transmitted Zika viral infection in the U.S. Separately, Brazil on Thursday confirmed a case of Zika transmission through a blood transfusion.
All of the companies which have pledged to pursue development of a Zika vaccine have emphasized a development timeline remains uncertain. Zika bears some resemblance to dengue in symptoms and means of transmission. Last year, Sanofi developed the first approved vaccine for dengue and has announced it will apply that experience to Zika.
Anvisa, the Brazilian equivalent of the FDA, recently guaranteed any product contributing to the diagnosis, prevention, or treatment of Zika will be granted priority review. In addition, the largest immunobiologicals and biopharmaceutical company in Latin America, Instituto Butantan, announced it is looking for pharmaceutical partners to collaborate on a vaccine.
However, unlike Ebola, there has not been much groundwork laid in researching the Zika virus prior to the Brazilian outbreak. This makes the development of a vaccine lengthier and more difficult. A commercial product is likely still years away, although a developmental vaccine could be tested earlier.