06:24am Monday 01 May 2017

Miller School Researchers Move Forward with Development of Zika Vaccine

Following early-stage development of a vaccine to protect against the Zika virus, a group of researchers at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine has published its initial findings. Now, with new funding, they are moving forward with non-human primate testing and, eventually, phase I human trials.

“Zika virus, which has been linked to brain damage in developing human fetuses, has become a serious public health concern,” said Glen Barber, Ph.D., professor and chair of cell biology. “Our genetically engineered experimental vaccine has been shown to be a highly effective and safe vector for the delivery of foreign immunogens. We have also demonstrated maternal protective immunity in challenged newborn mice born to vaccinated female mice. Our data indicate that this approach may be a suitable strategy for the design of effective vaccines against Zika virus.”

Barber and his team from the Department of Cell Biology — Tianli Xia, Ph.D., Jeonghyun Ahn, Ph.D., and Ph.D. students Dillon Betancourt and Nina de Queiroz — just published their findings. “Innate Immune Augmenting Vesicular Stomatitis Virus (VSV) Expressing Zika Virus Proteins Confers Protective Immunity” appears as the Cutting Edge feature in the Journal of Immunology, with Barber as corresponding author.

“There are presently no accepted therapies or vaccines to treat or prevent Zika virus infection, making the development of such measures of paramount importance,” said Barber. “We are now preparing to evaluate the efficacy of our vaccine in non-human primates, and will further pursue phase I clinical trials in human subjects.”

Based on the early findings, last year Barber’s team received NIH funding, as well as a recent Zika Research Grant of $1.1 million from the Florida Department of Health.

Miller School of Medicine


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