April 11 Austrian biotech company Themis
Bioscience said on Tuesday it had started a clinical trial of an
experimental Zika vaccine in healthy volunteers, opening up
another front in the race to prevent the spread of the
Themis's product, which is based on measles immunisation
technology, is the first vaccine containing attenuated, or
weakened, live virus to reach the human testing phase.
Multiple research groups, biotech firms and pharmaceutical
companies are working on different Zika vaccine approaches, but
only a few have so far advanced into clinical trials.
U.S.-based Inovio Pharmaceuticals announced in
December that its experimental vaccine had induced robust immune
responses in human volunteers, while U.S. government scientists
are beginning the second phase of testing another vaccine.
Among big drugmakers, France's Sanofi has the most
advanced Zika vaccine development programme.
Themis, which is unlisted, said its Phase I clinical trial
would involve 48 healthy volunteers and be conducted at the
Medical University of Vienna.
Zika typically causes mild symptoms, but when the virus
infects a pregnant women it can be passed to the foetus, causing
a variety of birth defects including microcephaly, in which the
baby's head is abnormally small.
(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; editing by Jason Neely)