Lundbeckfonden awards DKK 5 million to ISIM Research Team for developing a Zika-Vaccine in a small animal model – University of Copenhagen

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22 December 2016

Lundbeckfonden awards DKK 5 million to ISIM Research Team for developing a Zika-Vaccine in a small animal model

Zika virus

A research team headed by Jan Pravsgaard, Allan Randrup Thomsen, Søren Buus and Anette Stryhn has been awarded DKK 5 million from Lundbeckfonden for developing a vaccine against the Zika virus. The first results are expected to be delivered after two years of research.

Zika virus can be found in most tropic and and subtropic areas.

The project will be divided into two parts. One part will aim at developing a vaccine that can be tested in a small animal model, later to be developed into a vaccine for humans. The other part will take place   in Brazil to research on the immune-response in Brazilians who have already been infected with the Zika virus, to understand how the immune system responds to the virus. Understanding the human response will make it easier to figure out which genes should be included in the vaccine.

The team actually applied for the grant without an official call for applications. They believed it was important to start working on a Zika vaccine promptly. After contacting four foundations, Lundbeckfonden agreed to receive an application, and after a highly positive external peer review, the team was awarded the funds. “We very rarely accept to process applications outside our normal deadlines but in this case, we judged the topic to be very urgent, so we needed to respond quickly”, says Anne-Marie Engel, Research Director at Lundbeckfonden.

The team has already had experience with successfully developing an efficient animal-model vaccine against the Yellow Fever virus. As the same approach is being used to develop the Zika vaccine, expectations of a successful outcome are high. "In two years’ time we should have an adeno-based vaccine that works on mice and is ready for further development", says Jan Pravsgaard. Next step will then be to apply for further funding to develop the vaccine for primates and subsequently for man.

Zika virus
The ZIKA virus made headlines all over the world this year when an outbreak was discovered in Brazil. At this time, a connection between the virus and microcephaly was reported, affecting the health of newborn babies. It is not a lethal disease but the connection with microcephaly and other neurological complications, makes it important to find a vaccine against Zika. Read much more about the virus on WHO’s information page (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/zika/en/)


Contact:
Professor Jan Pravsgaard Christensen, E-mail: jpc@sund.ku.dk, Telephone: +45 35 32 78 73 / Mobile: +45 30 58 99 45