French pharmaceutical company Sanofi has entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with the US Department of Defense's (DoD) biomedical research facility Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR), to co-develop a Zika vaccine candidate.
The company has signed the agreement with WRAIR through its French-based vaccines global business arm Sanofi Pasteur.
Under the deal, WRAIR will deliver its Zika purified inactivated virus (ZPIV) vaccine technology to Sanofi Pasteur.
Sanofi Pasteur, on the other hand, will produce clinical material in line with current Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) with an aim to support Phase II testing and optimisation of the upstream process to better production, as well as characterisation of the vaccine product.
As part of the agreement, WRAIR will be responsible for sharing data related to the development of immunologic assays that are designed to evaluate neutralising antibody responses after a natural infection and vaccination with ZPIV.
It will also be responsible for biologic samples produced during the performance of non-human primate studies, and biologic samples produced during the performance of human safety and immunogenicity studies using ZPIV.
Following the pre-clinical research conducted by WRAIR and the Massachusetts teaching hospital Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre, WRAIR, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) are now coordinating the pre-clinical development of the Zika vaccine candidate.
Sanofi Pasteur executive vice-president and head David Loew said: "In addition to exploring our own vaccine technology used in our new dengue fever vaccine, we are looking at other pathways to get a Zika vaccine into the clinic as soon as possible.
"Therefore, this exciting collaboration with the WRAIR creates the opportunity to rapidly move forward."
In a bid to get a Zika vaccine candidate into the clinic soon, Sanofi Pasteur has been exploring several partnerships with external experts.
Image: Electron micrograph of Zika virus. Photo: courtesy of CDC / Cynthia Goldsmith.