S. Korea's GeneOne joins with Inovio on Zika virus vaccine preclinical work

Seoul-based GeneOne Life Sciences is working with Inovio Pharmaceuticals ($INO) on preclinical efforts to develop a vaccine to the Zika virus in a second collaboration between the firms that also joined hands on a Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, vaccine effort last year.

The effort this time around is on a synthetic vaccine using Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania-based Inovio's SynCon platform, Inovio said in a press release. 

  Aedes aegypti mosquito  

The company is also working with academic collaborators.

"Using our SynCon technology we rapidly generated a synthetic vaccine candidate that shows promise as a preventive and treatment," said Inovio's President and CEO J. Joseph Kim in a statement.

"With robust antibody and killer T cell responses generated by our vaccine in mice, we will next test the vaccine in non-human primates and initiate clinical product manufacturing. We plan to initiate phase I human testing of our Zika vaccine before the end of 2016."

Several companies including France's Sanofi ($SNY), GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and Andhra Pradesh-based Biotech International in India said it has already developed two drug candidates for use against Zika and is seeking government approval for animal trials, according to RTT News.

The Zika virus has now spread to 26 countries and territories in the Americas and concern is growing in Asia, particularly in Equatorial regions of it showing up in densely populated areas.

Inovio said initial work showed "the potential importance of neutralizing antibodies in preventing infection and the role T cells play in clearing infection by killing cells that harbor the virus."

GeneOne Life Science is also a vaccine developer and leading contract manufacturer of DNA plasmid-based agents for preclinical and clinical trials.

The MERS effort by Inovio and GeneOne is now working with the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research on a Phase I trial for a vaccine.

- here's the release