The company plans on drawing from its experiences with its already successfully licensed vaccines against yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis and most recently dengue, which all belong to the same family than Zika.
Currently, the company is at the early research and discovery phase.
“It is our ambition to start clinical testing in the second half of next year based on a series of assumptions and pending discussions with regulatory agencies,” Dr. Nicolas Jackson, Head of R&D for Sanofi Pasteur, told us. “Timelines will be refined as we move forward.”
The company plans to review the different technologies used to fight Flavivirus, including the one used to develop its new dengue vaccine (Dengvaxia) towards Zika.
Jackson explained that the company will “mobilize our internal expertise and external collaborations used in the successful development of the dengue vaccine towards this effort.”
She added, “Our available vaccine technology used to successfully license a vaccine (Dengvaxia) against dengue, our internal dengue expertise, and our established dengue collaborative network are strong assets with the capacity to potentially accelerate our R&D efforts to find a vaccine against Zika.”
While the company can’t currently predict a timeline for a Zika vaccine development and licensure at this early stage, it is hoping to accelerate the process.
“We are striving to leverage our extensive experience, expertise and established infrastructure in the field of Flavivirus vaccines, which Zika belongs to, in order to accelerate the normal timelines,” said Jackson. “We aim to cut years off the normal timelines.”
There is currently no vaccine or specific treatment for Zika; however according to WHO, as of March 2, 2016, 67 groups were working on experimental products, including vaccines, diagnostics, and innovative vector control tools, all at various stages of early development.
“While product development is at an earlier stage than that for Ebola,” said Dr Marie-Paule Kieny, Assistant Director-General in charge of R&D at WHO, “R&D methods and coordination among partners is much more advanced, largely thanks to the lessons learnt during the Ebola epidemic.”