Inviragen, U of Texas land $3M grant for chikungunya vaccine

With the help of a four-year, $3 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Inviragen and the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) are furthering development of a preclinical vaccine for chikungunya virus.

Chikungunya is a mosquito-borne virus common in Asia and Africa, as well as Australia and some parts of Europe. The virus can lead to long periods of incapacitating joint pain in 30% of those who contract it, and in rare cases can lead to neurologic and hepatic disease. There are no approved treatments for chikungunya.

Inviragen, the UTMB, the University of Wisconsin and the division of vector-borne diseases of the CDC are currently testing the drug in preclinical trials and have already reported early safety and protective efficacy data. The funding will be used to further research of the vaccine, complete preclinical testing and manufacturing, file an NDA and begin human studies of the vaccine, explained Inviragen co-founder Dr. Jorge Osorio. Inviragen and UTMB already have a worldwide license agreement for the development and commercialization of the vaccine.

In a release, Dr. Scott Weaver, director of the Institute for Human Infections and Immunity and scientific director of Galveston National Laboratory, UTMB, explained the reasoning behind the NIAID funding. "While chikungunya is currently endemic in Africa, Asia and other regions beyond our borders, we believe that there is a very real risk that an infected traveler might spur an epidemic in the U.S. The best way to prevent this would be with a vaccine, and the results we have seen so far from the Inviragen candidate are very encouraging."

- check out Inviragen's release