Company Says Zika Vaccine Shows Promise in Mice, Expects Human Tests by End of Year

February 18, 2016 Updated: February 18, 2016

One of the dozen or so companies racing to develop a Zika vaccine said Wednesday that its experimental shot showed promise in mice.

The U.S. biotech firm Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc said the vaccine induced a robust and durable response in mice, developing antibodies and generating a response from T-cells, which play an important role in immunizing the body.

“We will next test the vaccine in non-human primates and initiate clinical product manufacturing. We plan to initiate Phase I human testing of our Zika vaccine before the end of 2016,” Inovio Chief Executive Joseph Kim said in a statement obtained by Reuters.

Phase I is the first stage in a three-step process of testing new medicines and involves giving an experimental product to healthy volunteers.

Human trials of other vaccines could start as early as August.

Aedes aegypti mosquitos are seen in a lab at the Fiocruz institute on January 26, 2016 in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil. The mosquito transmits the Zika virus and is being studied at the institute. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Aedes aegypti mosquitos are seen in a lab at the Fiocruz institute on January 26, 2016 in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil. The mosquito transmits the Zika virus and is being studied at the institute. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

 

But the World Health Organization said recently that all possible Zika vaccines are at least 18 months away from large-scale trials.

Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO’s assistant director-general for health systems and innovation, told reporters in Geneva the U.N. health agency’s response is “proceeding very quickly” and that 15 companies or groups have been identified as possible participants in the hunt for vaccines.

“(But) our knowledge of what is currently in the pipeline tells us that it will take approximately 18 months before a vaccine can be launched into large-scale trial to demonstrate efficacy,” Kieny said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.