India — As the world faces another worried moment with the unprecedented spread of Zika virus, the Bharat Biotech International Limited in Hyderabad says it has patented the Zika vaccine.
“On Zika, we are probably the first vaccine company in the world to file a vaccine candidate patent about nine months ago,” said Dr. Krishna Ella, Chairman and Managing Director, Bharat Biotech Ltd.
Using a live Zika virus imported officially, the Hyderabad company has now developed two candidate vaccines, but taking them through animal and human trials could be a long haul. Dr Ella said he had sought the government’s support on this and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has stepped forward to help.
“We have just been informed about the Zika vaccine candidate that Bharat Biotech has. We will examine it from the scientific point of view and see the feasibility of taking it forward. It is a good example of a Make in India product,” said Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, pediatrician and Director General, ICMR.
Using a live Zika virus imported officially, the Hyderabad Company has now developed two candidate vaccines
There has been a rush to develop a vaccine to address the virus, and global firms, including France’s Sanofi and Japan’s Takeda, have begun their own research.
A committee of WHO experts recently considered patterns of recent spread and the broad geographical distribution of mosquito species that can transmit the virus.
The lack of vaccines and rapid and reliable diagnostic tests, and the absence of population immunity in newly affected countries were cited as further causes for concern.
The experts agreed that a causal relationship between Zika infection during pregnancy and microcephaly is strongly suspected, though not yet scientifically proven. All agreed on the urgent need to coordinate international efforts to investigate and understand this relationship better.
After a review of the evidence, the Committee advised that the recent cluster of microcephaly cases and other neurological disorders reported in Brazil, following a similar cluster in French Polynesia in 2014, constitutes an “extraordinary event” and a public health threat to other parts of the world.
“In their view, a coordinated international response is needed to minimize the threat in affected countries and reduce the risk of further international spread,” the committee states.