A DNA-based Zika virus vaccine developed by Inovio Pharmaceuticals has proven successful in phase I open-label dose-ranging human trials. In animal studies, this vaccine was found to prevent Zika virus infection as well as brain damage.

In the press release, the company said it is optimistic on developing the first vaccine given positive clinical data in humans. Apart from inducing a strong immune response, the candidate vaccine was found to be safe among the study participants.

The study was conducted as low dose and high dose vaccine groups and both demonstrated Zika antigen-specific antibody responses. The phase ran for around 60 weeks for evaluating the safety, tolerability and induction and persistence of Zika specific antibody and T cell responses.

The company is expected to commence 2nd phase 1 trials in Puerto Rico that would include 160 test participants. Nearly 35000 people living Puerto Rico are reportedly infected with Zika virus.

In addition to vaccine development, the company also bagged $8.8 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a DNA-based monoclonal antibody to provide protection against Zika infection and ensuing complications. Therapies based on monoclonal antibodies provide immediate protection but cannot be used as a long-term option for protection. Health experts believe administering monoclonal antibody and vaccine together would ideally protect the recipient immediately.

It is a well-known fact that Zika infection during pregnancy is known to cause microcephaly to the unborn child. Also, Zika has been linked to numerous medical conditions such as Guillain-Barré Syndrome and damage to the retina. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis, muscle pain, and Headache.

There are at least three vaccines developed by different groups and organization awaiting to enter human trials for their Zika vaccine candidates, notably protein Sciences and Bharat Biotech.