University of Adelaide affiliated researchers have made significant advances in developing a novel vaccine against Zika virus. The vaccine candidate could possibly lead to global eradication of the disease. A breakthrough, it is the first T-cell based investigational Zika vaccine. The team has more preclinical research left to ready for the right clinical trials partner to then commercialize.
The Australian-based virology team, led by Professor Eric Gowans and Dr. Branka Grubor-Bauk from the Basil Hetzel Institute for Translational Health Research, and supported by the Hospital Research Foundation—has developed a vaccine that the team reports prevents Zika infection in pre-clinical models of the disease. The team’s recent findings are now published in the international journal Science Advance.
What is Zika?
A mosquito-transmitted ‘flavivirus’ that can cause microcephaly (a birth defect where a baby’s head is significantly smaller than expected) and severe birth defects in infants born to infected mothers. Hence, the introduction of a successful Zika vaccine could help prevent infection of pregnant women and the resultant congenital effects in the unborn child.
Pregnant women face extreme risk with the Zika virus and there is no therapy or vaccine available to date.
In a preclinical research effort, the Adelaide Medical School-based team has developed the novel vaccine against Zika that has proved effective in mouse models in a laboratory. It represents, according to the investigators’ press release, a first—in that the vaccine study reveals a T cell-based vaccine that can confer protection against a systematic Zika infection.
Dr. Grubor-Bauk reported that the study team is looking to launch a Phase I clinical trial in humans. However, there is additional work they must do in the preclinical research phase—including the identification of the most effective dosing as well as proving efficacy in a more diverse array of preclinical models of the disease.
The team reported that the findings also contribute to inform other flavivirus vaccine research by shifting the focus of vaccine development from viral envelope and antibody-based vaccines to T-cell based vaccines.
Preparing for a Commercialization Process: Needed a Strong Partner
Additionally, Dr. Grubor-Bauk and team are on the lookout for the right partner—first, they must “de-risk” and “create an attractive technology with strong IP position” to then negotiate a licensing or co-development deal.
The study was funded by the National Foundation for Medical Research and Innovation (NFMRI) and ongoing funds from The Hospital Research Foundation.
Dr. Branka Grubor-Bauk, Basil Hetzel Institute for Translational Health Research
Note, this research has been conducted in collaboration with the eminent global vaccine researcher Professor Dan Barouch, Director of Harvard Medical School’s Centre for Virology and Vaccine Research (CVVR) at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center; as well as Adelaide’s Professor Sarah Robertson, Director of the Robinson Research Institute, University of Adelaide and other scientists from the universities of Adelaide, South Australia and Flinders.
Call to Action: Although the University of Adelaide-affiliated team has more preclinical research ahead, they are readying for commercial partnership. If interested, it may make sense to connect with Dr. Grubor-Bauk.