Protecting unborn babies from Zika

A loan supported by the InnovFin-EU finance for innovators initiative under the EU's Horizon 2020 programme and extended by the European Investment Bank is helping France-based biotech company Valneva develop a Zika vaccine that is safe during pregnancy. This could protect unborn babies from birth defects linked to the mosquito-borne virus.

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Countries
Countries
  Algeria
  Argentina
  Australia
  Austria
  Bangladesh
  Belarus
  Belgium
  Benin
  Bolivia
  Brazil
  Bulgaria
  Burkina Faso
  Cambodia
  Cameroon
  Canada
  Cape Verde
  Chile
  China
  Colombia
  Costa Rica
  Croatia
  Cyprus
  Czech Republic
  Denmark
  Ecuador
  Egypt
  Estonia
  Ethiopia
  Faroe Islands
  Finland
  France
  French Polynesia
  Georgia


 

Published: 13 June 2018  
Related theme(s) and subtheme(s)
Health & life sciencesMedical research
Research policyHorizon 2020
Special CollectionsFinancial Instruments (InnovFin)
Countries involved in the project described in the article
France
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Protecting unborn babies from Zika

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© jarun011 #124255901, 2018. Source: fotolia.com

Until recently, the Zika virus was not a priority since it affected relatively few people and the cost of creating a vaccine was estimated at EUR 149-468 million. But the spread of Zika in the Americas and discovery of a link with reduced head size and brain damage in babies of women infected while pregnant changed that.

One challenge is to ensure that any vaccine – which would typically include an agent similar to the virus – doesn’t harm foetuses. Valneva is making a vaccine with a disease-causing agent that has been killed but nonetheless stimulates the immune system to protect against the virus. So even if the agent crosses the placenta, it doesn’t infect the baby.

Valneva’s work on Zika is based on a similar process to that which it followed to create its vaccine against Japanese encephalitis, a neurological disease responsible for up to around 20 000 deaths annually. As this vaccine is licensed in Europe and the USA, Valneva believes that approval for its Zika vaccine will be granted quickly.

The vaccine has “demonstrated excellent purity and overall had a biological, chemical and physical profile comparable to our commercially produced Japanese encephalitis vaccine,” says deputy chief executive Franck Grimaud.

The EU financing also supports development of vaccines against clostridium difficile, an infectious diarrhoea, and Lyme Borreliosis, a tick-borne illness commonly known as Lyme disease with some 500 000 cases a year in Europe and the USA, and against which there is currently no licensed vaccine.

Valneva spends about 20 % of revenue on R&D and a quarter of its 400 employees work in that field. Along with the Japanese encephalitis vaccine, this approach has led to the creation of a vaccine against enterotoxigenic escherichia coli, a type of E. coli, and cholera, which kills up to 120 000 people a year. Both prevent diseases for which there are no other approved products in Europe.

Project details

  • Project acronym: Valneva
  • Participants: France (Coordinator)
  • Total costs: € 25 000 000
  • EU contribution: € 25 000 000
  • Duration: from June 2016

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