IIL developing firsts for vaccines in India

Chikungunya and Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) are both mosquito-borne viruses, and Indian Immunologicals Limited is working on what could be the world's first chikungunya vaccine, as well as India's first live JEV vaccine. The vaccines are both in preclinical trials, and the India-based company expects to start clinical studies in this year or next, with vaccines on the market by 2014 or 2015.

Chikungunya causes fever and joint pain, as well as muscle pain, headache and tiredness. It is most common in Africa, Asia and the Indian subcontinent, and levels are generally low but there have been serious outbreaks. There are no approved treatments or vaccines for chikungunya. Meanwhile, JEV infection can lead to brain inflammation, causing permanent damage. The mortality rates for JEV are high, and children and the elderly are at most risk.

"Currently, no vaccine is available for chikungunya anywhere in the world. IIL is developing a vaccine for this disease using a virus strain isolated by a laboratory in the USA. For Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) infection, IIL is developing a better and safer vaccine by producing the virus in cell culture, instead of using mouse brain for growing the virus, which the current vaccine manufacturers do. The inactivated JEV vaccine is thus a safer vaccine," said KV Balasubramaniam, IIL's managing director, as quoted by BioSpectrum Asia.

As well as protecting the local population, shots against JEV and chikungunya could be useful as a travel vaccine for tourists visiting high-risk areas.

- read the article in BioSpectrum Asia