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Biotech Companies to Discover Ebola, Zika Vaccines

Ebola clinic

Woman being evaluated at an Ebola clinic in Sierra Leone (Rebecca Rollins, Partners In Health)

2 March 2017. Two biotechnology companies are collaborating to discover new vaccines protecting against Ebola and Zika viruses that present global threats to public health. This project is the second partnership between Integral Molecular in Philadelphia and Integrated BioTherapeutics in Rockville, Maryland dealing with urgently needed vaccines.

The Ebola outbreak in 2014-15 caused a serious public health emergency in West Africa, with nearly 29,000 cases reported in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, leading to more than 11,000 deaths. The disease is caused by a virus spread through direct contact, often through broken skin or mucous membranes, with a sick person’s blood or bodily fluids, contaminated objects such as needles, and infected animals. No treatments or vaccines for Ebola are yet approved, although World Health Organization says 2 vaccine candidates are being evaluated.

The Zika outbreak is a current public health challenge, with an outbreak in Brazil spreading to the Caribbean and the Americas, including the U.S. mainland. The Zika virus is transmitted primarily by aedes aegypti mosquitoes, the same species carrying chikungunya, dengue, and yellow fever pathogens. The virus may also be spread through sexual contacts. Most people contracting the Zika virus report symptoms such as mild fever, conjunctivitis or pink eye, and muscle and joint pain.

The current Zika outbreak, however, is resulting in increasing numbers of cases of birth defects, notably microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention counts more than 5,000 Zika cases in the 50 U.S. states and District of Columbia, and almost 37,500 cases in U.S. territories. As with Ebola, no treatments or vaccines are yet available.

Both Integral Molecular and Integrated BioTherapeutics develop vaccines for infectious diseases. Integral Molecular’s technology addresses proteins generated by viruses with outer lipid membranes or envelopes that attach and transmit viral proteins to the host cells. In this project, Integral Molecular plans to screen its panel of viral envelope protein variants to find optimal targets for Ebola and Zika vaccines.

Integrated BioTherapeutics discovers and develops vaccines for infectious diseases, with a technology focusing on carbohydrate-based proteins and virus-like particles. The company has a separate infectious disease testing service with established models for Zika and other pathogens. In this collaboration, Integrated BioTherapeutics will conduct preclinical tests of vaccine candidates.

The two companies previously worked together with Mapp Biopharmaceutical in San Diego and researchers from several universities and research institutes to create a synthetic antibody to protect against the two main strains of the Ebola virus. That antibody, code-named FVM04, extends the ZMapp antibodies to address the Sudan Ebola variation, while still covering ZMapp’s original Zaire strain.

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