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DNA vaccine against Zika yields immune response in phase 1 trial

By Jesse Schwartz
Published: October 11th, 2017

On the heels of Wistar Institute’s announcement last fall that it achieved a 100% success rate in animal trials of a synthetic DNA vaccine against the Zika virus, now comes word that the vaccine has produced excellent results in a phase 1 trial in people who received up to three injections of the compound.

Two weeks after trial participants received the final vaccine dose, they all developed Zika-specific antibodies and 80% of them developed neutralizing antibodies with no significant side effects, according to the Institute. Study collaborators include the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Inovio Pharmaceuticals, and GeneOne Life Science.

The synthetic DNA Zika vaccine, called GLS-5700, produces a response against a specific antigen, essentially calling in troops of antibodies and T cells to neutralize the virus. After each dose, trial participants were given electroporation, or small electric zaps on their skin at the injection site, to improve vaccine uptake.

In the earlier animal trials, the vaccine prevented Zika from invading the brain – a potentially important factor given the high rates of microcephaly in infants born to infected mothers.

Inovio and GeneOne are among more than a dozen life science companies that are racing to develop Zika vaccines.

GLS-5700 was developed in a few short months, according to David Weiner, director of Wistar’s Vaccine & Immunotherapy Center. That speed could be an important advantage for DNA vaccines, he says, particularly when dealing with viruses that can mutate over time. The platform, he said in the statement, “has advantages in temperature stability, storage, dose and distribution compared to most traditional vaccines, making DNA vaccines an important tool to respond quickly to curb an emerging epidemic.”

The research team believes the DNA vaccine platform could be used to protect against many other diseases, including Ebola, West Nile virus and pandemic flu.

Source: Fierce Biotech

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