Sanofi-Walter Reed Zika alliance brings in Brazilian vaccine institute Fiocruz

The Oswaldo Cruz Foundation's Moorish Pavilion, courtesy of Fiocruz

The Zika vaccine partnership between Sanofi Pasteur and the U.S. Army’s Walter Reed Army Institute of Research just added a new member to the force--Brazil's Fiocruz, a research organization with a long history in vaccine development.

Fiocruz will “provide additional expertise, and increase the likelihood of successfully developing and licensing a safe and effective Zika vaccine as quickly as possible,” Sanofi’s vax branch said in a statement

Because Fiocruz is based in Brazil, where Zika has left a devastating mark, bringing the institute into the Sanofi-Walter Reed effort "only makes sense for the pursuit of public health," Sanofi Pasteur SVP John Shiver said in the statement. The three partners also have a history of working together, he said.

Fiocruz is the immuno-biological tech arm of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, a research institute founded in 1900. Fiocruz has a long history of developing vaccines, including those that protect against poliomyelitis, rotavirus and measles. Fiocruz can help the partnership with process development, epidemiological studies, and preclinical and clinical testing, among other things, the statement said.

Sanofi Pasteur is playing a major role in Zika vaccine research. In July, it signed a deal with the Walter Reed institute to develop the latter’s Zika purified inactivated virus (ZPIV) vaccine candidate. Following a previous study in mice, the vaccine successfully protected rhesus monkeys from Zika infection in a second round of preclinical studies completed in early August.

In September, the French pharma received a $43 million in funding for a Phase II study of ZPIV from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That deal includes $130 million in potential follow-up funding for further studies if the Phase II is successful.

RIght now, Sanofi is working on a clinical development and regulatory strategy while Walter Reed and the U.S. National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases conduct the Phase I trials on ZPIV. Given the urgency and severity of the disease, researchers expect those Phase I tests to start by the end of this year.

According to some experts in the field, a Zika vaccine could be a $1 billion opportunity, partly because travelers from outside Zika-endemic areas would be able to pay a high price for protection. Where infection is common, a Zika shot could be distributed through widespread vaccination programs.

Several other pharmas are also in the race to developing a Zika vaccine, however. The list includes: Takeda Pharmaceuticals, which also received money from BARDA; Moderna, another BARDA-backed group; Inovio, which already got the FDA green light to conduct human trials; and GlaxoSmithKline, which recently announced a Zika partnership with the NIH. Experts believe the market could see a vaccine in as little as two years.

Related Articles:
Sanofi enlists for top Army hospital’s fight against Zika virus
Sanofi grabs $43M in U.S. government funds to advance Zika vaccine into Phase II
U.S. government in $300M-plus Zika vaccine R&D deal with Takeda
Inovio set for first Zika vaccine human trial
GSK jumps into Zika vax hunt on heels of Sanofi's deal
Moderna gains BARDA Zika vax funding; closes $474M funding round