Top scientists around the globe are working and using new technologies to find out whether new trends in vaccinations could help protect against Zika. With the most recent and most popular public health crisis at the forefront of international attention –the Zika virus outbreak– the world is bringing new information, methodology, literature and scientific measures at a pace that keeps followers baffled. Now, scientists hope to set a world record for the speed at which they can develop a Zika vaccine, and new technologies are helping them along the way.
These novel prevention and intervention procedures could change the way that the public health field addresses epidemics, namely viruses.
Leading the pack with the first grant, biotech company Inovio received approval from the Food and Drug Administration to conduct an experimental Zika vaccine trial on humans. They have already been able to prevent the virus from taking hold in monkeys, and Harvard Medical School reports developing two successful Zika vaccines that have shown promise in mice.
Although many companies and institutions are gunning to be the first, funding can be problematic. President Obama said that a Zika vaccine could be produced relatively quickly should Congress provide a budget for it. Democrats struck down a bill allotting 1.1 billion dollars to research for the vaccine because of tacked-on, unrelated political moves. The president attributed the denial of the bill to typical politics.
Despite this setback, new technology still allows for research to be conducted by private institutions. A relatively recent bit of tech called DNA vaccination now allows current Zika researchers to develop effective vaccines. This form of the shot only contains a fraction of the viral DNA, as opposed to an entire viral unit, allowing the production of these treatments to be more cost effective and less dangerous.
In the past, one pitfall for researchers was the potency of the vaccine. This type of shot has to enter a cell in order to take hold (unusual in the world of vaccines), so it became necessary to invent new delivery technologies. Now, an electric shock may replace the classic puncture-style injection– a development claimed by Inovio.
So, can new trends in vaccinations help protect against Zika? Researchers hope to have a successful answer and vaccine in mass production by 2018.
– Connor Borden