Zika Virus Vaccines

NIAID is developing multiple vaccine candidates to prevent Zika virus infection. These include:

  • A DNA-based vaccine developed by scientists at NIAID’s Vaccine Research Center (VRC). The strategy is similar to the VRC’s investigational flavivirus vaccine for West Nile virus infection. The DNA-based Zika vaccine candidate entered a Phase 1 clinical trial at NIAID in August 2016. A second Phase 1 trial testing an optimized vaccine design launched in December 2016. Results indicate the optimized vaccine is safe and able to induce a neutralizing antibody response against Zika virus. In March 2017, NIAID launched a Phase 2 clinical trial of the candidate, which is enrolling healthy adult and adolescent participants in areas of confirmed or potential active mosquito-transmitted Zika infection. The trial, called VRC 705, further evaluates the safety and immunogenicity of the vaccine and will assess the optimal dose for administration. It also will attempt to determine if the vaccine can effectively prevent disease caused by Zika infection. 

  •  A purified inactivated Zika vaccine called ZPIV, developed by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR). ZPIV is based on a similar approach that WRAIR used to develop vaccines against the related Japanese Encephalitis and dengue viruses. Phase 1 trials testing ZPIV were initiated at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) Clinical Trial Center in Silver Spring, Maryland; the Center for Vaccine Development at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine, the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research, part of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School in Boston; and the clinical research center CAIMED, part of Ponce Health Sciences University in Puerto Rico. NIAID co-funded the Phase 1 clinical trials program with WRAIR and served as the regulatory sponsor for several of these clinical studies.  

  •  An investigational live, attenuated Zika vaccine. The experimental vaccine, known as rZIKV/D4Δ30-713, was developed by scientists in NIAID’s Laboratory of Viral Diseases. The laboratory used genetic engineering techniques to create a chimeric virus, made by combining genes from multiple viruses. The chimeric virus consists of a dengue virus type 4 backbone (dengue is caused by any of four related viruses, termed serotypes) that expresses Zika virus surface proteins. The chimeric virus is live but attenuated, or weakened, so it cannot cause disease in recipients. The vaccine is being evaluated in a Phase 1 clinical trial initiated in August 2018. The laboratory has previously developed a live, attenuated dengue vaccine candidate currently in Phase 3 clinical testing in Brazil. If the Zika vaccine candidate proves safe, scientists plan to add the Zika component to the dengue vaccine candidate to create and evaluate a single vaccine that would protect against both Zika and all four dengue viruses.  

  •  Investigational mRNA vaccines (a gene-based platform similar to DNA vaccines). NIAID’s VRC is working with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), University of Pennsylvania and Moderna/Valera to evaluate various mRNA vaccine technologies to identify immunogenic and scalable candidates. 

  • A vaccine designed to protect against multiple mosquito-borne diseases, including Zika. The investigational vaccine, called AGS-v, was developed by the London-based pharmaceutical company SEEK, which has since formed a joint venture with hVIVO in London. AGS-v is designed to trigger an immune response to mosquito salivary proteins rather than to a specific virus or parasite carried by mosquitoes. The test vaccine contains four synthetic proteins from mosquito salivary glands. The proteins are designed to induce antibodies in a vaccinated individual and to cause a modified allergic response that can prevent infection when a person is bitten by a disease-carrying mosquito. The AGS-v candidate is being evaluated in a Phase 1 clinical trial at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. 

  • An investigational Zika vaccine that uses a genetically engineered version of vesicular stomatitis virus—an animal virus that primarily affects cattle. VSV was successfully used in an investigational Ebola vaccine tested by NIAID. This vaccine approach is at an early stage with plans underway to evaluate the Zika vaccine candidate in tissue culture and animal models. 

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