Inviragen, Inc. has announced that the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a division of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded a four-year grant of over $3 million for the characterization and development of a novel recombinant chikungunya virus (CHIKV) vaccine.
The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) in Galveston, which is collaborating with Inviragen on the development of a CHIKV vaccine, is the recipient of the grant, with over $1.5 million directly funding product development activities at Inviragen.
The CHIKV vaccine is currently undergoing preclinical testing by scientists at Inviragen, the UTMB, the University of Wisconsin (UW) and the Division of Vector-Borne Diseases (DVBD) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Inviragen and UTMB have recently executed an exclusive world-wide license agreement for the development and commercialization of this novel CHIKV vaccine.
“Through our collaboration with UTMB, UW, and DVBD, we have established the preclinical safety, immunogenicity and efficacy of this chikungunya vaccine candidate in multiple animal models,” stated Dr. Jorge Osorio, co-founder and chief scientific officer of Inviragen.
Dr. Osorio continued, “This grant from NIAID will partially fund efforts at UTMB and Inviragen to further characterize the vaccine, complete the remaining preclinical testing and manufacturing, and file an investigational new drug application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to begin human clinical testing.”
Dr. Scott Weaver, director of the Institute for Human Infections and Immunity and scientific director of Galveston National Laboratory, UTMB commented, “While chikungunya is currently endemic in Africa, Asia and other regions beyond our borders, we believe that there is a very real risk that an infected traveler might spur an epidemic in the U.S. The best way to prevent this would be with a vaccine, and the results we have seen so far from the Inviragen candidate are very encouraging. We believe the recent award of over $3 million from the NIAID speaks to the need for an effective vaccine, and to the strength of our collaborative chikungunya research program.”
Key preclinical data demonstrating the safety and protective efficacy of the vaccine are reported in the July 2011 issue of PLoS Pathogens.
The paper characterizes the attenuation resulting from the engineered mutation of a viral promoter of the CHIKV and insertion of an independent ribosomal entry site (IRES) in its place.
The resulting virus fails to replicate in its mosquito vector, an important safety feature when immunizing travelers or laboratory personnel in non-endemic locations.
Further, it is highly attenuated in multiple models of CHIKV infection and the candidate vaccine generates protective immune responses after a single dose.
PLoS Pathogens is an open-access, peer-reviewed journal published monthly by the Public Library of Science (PLoS). The article, titled “Novel Chikungunya Vaccine Candidate with an IRES-Based Attenuation and Host Range Alteration Mechanism, may be accessed free of charge on the PLoS website at www.plospathogens.org.