The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has formed a task force to contribute to the global response to the threat of the deadly mosquito-transmitted Zika virus.
The group comprises of European experts who have specialised knowledge in vaccines, infectious diseases and other relevant expertise, and will give advice on any scientific and regulatory matters to carry out research and development of medicines or vaccines against the virus.
The task force was established following the declaration of Zika virus as a global emergency by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Currently, there are no vaccines or medicines to protect from or treat Zika virus infection that are approved or undergoing clinical studies.
Medicine developers with any projects related to this area can contact EMA, which will approach companies already planning to work on investigational vaccines and offer scientific and regulatory advice.
The EMA noted that it will advise these companies with regard to appropriate tests and studies that are needed in the development of products to speed up the process of medicines to combat the virus.
In order to support this health crisis, the agency said it will review any new information immediately once it becomes available.
During health emergencies, EMA works with the European Commission and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) as well as with other international partners including WHO during a health emergency such as the Zika virus outbreak.
Currently, WHO is mapping existing research and development for Zika virus to prioritise actions that could be taken to speed up medical products as well as approaches.
The organisation was notified of cases of the virus in Costa Rica, Curaçao, Jamaica and Nicaragua between 27-30 January 2016.
Zika is spreading in South and Central America and the Caribbean and has been linked to severe birth defects in Brazil, with a primary focus on pregnant women.
Recently, Indian firm Bharat Biotech has unveiled two vaccine candidates to protect humans against this virus, while French drugmaker Sanofi has also launched a project to develop a vaccine against the virus.
Earlier this month, the UK Government has also launched ‘Rapid Response’ to accelerate research aimed at tackling the risk posed by Zika virus.
Initially, the government will allocate up to £1m from its Global Challenges Research Fund, which will be made available through the UK Medical Research Council (UK MRC) to researchers applying for grants to carry out studies on the virus.
Meanwhile, the US President Barack Obama is seeking funds for more than $1.8bn from Congress to fight the virus.
Image: World Health Organization is mapping existing R&D for Zika virus to prioritise medical products. Photo: courtesy of EPA/D. Bockwoldt.