Brazil funds dengue vaccine PhIII, report says

Brazil officials signed off this week on funding for a late-stage dengue vaccine trial, adding another twist to the global dengue vaccine competition amid the launch of the first approved jab.

The funding, $24.8 million, will bankroll a Phase III trial of the candidate in 17,000 people under the supervision of the São Paulo-based Butantan Institute, the EFE news agency reports. Last month, the U.S. National Institutes of Health said in a statement that it developed the vaccine in a NIAID lab, adding that the Butantan Institute licensed the candidate and would sponsor the Phase III trial.

Past trials on the candidate have included testing in 900 people, EFE reports. It has shown a potential to induce the creation of antibodies against the four known dengue types, but the new trial will be the first to test whether it's effective in preventing dengue in humans.

The trial funding comes as Brazil grapples with outbreaks from dengue and Zika, both spread by the same mosquito species. Brazil has already approved Sanofi's dengue vaccine, Dengvaxia, but hasn't announced a vaccination strategy utilizing that jab.

The Phase III competitor could pose a risk to Sanofi's ($SNY) vaccine, which is expected to see competition as well from Takeda's DENVax by 2020. Sanofi, which spent $1.5 billion and 20 years on Dengvaxia R&D, received its first approvals late last year and sees national immunization campaigns as an important factor in the launch.

Brazil saw 1.5 million dengue cases in 2015, a 178% jump from 2014.

The Butantan Institute is also working in the frenzied Zika vaccine R&D space, pledging to develop a vaccine "in record time," though its director said that it would probably take 3 to 5 years. About 15 companies and organizations are working to develop a Zika vaccine, the World Health Organization recently reported.

- here's the EFE story