Antimicrobial Agents and Infectious Diseases

Sanofi Stops Making the Zika Vaccine Because of Budget Cuts

Although Sanofi, a pharmaceutical company based in Gentilly, France, decided to stop research on a Zika vaccine due to reduced financial assistance from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), a DNA vaccine designed by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) is in Phase 2 clinical trials and several smaller companies are also working on ways to prevent the virus.

Sanofi was the only major pharmaceutical company working on a vaccine candidate with a near-term market goal.  Jon Heinrichs, the Sanofi executive at the head of the Zika vaccine project, was not available for comment.

BARDA’s director Rick Bright said, “Zika remains a public health threat and BARDA plans to continue working with industry partners, including Sanofi, on developing Zika vaccines and diagnostics to make them available commercially as quickly as possible.  The specific activities of development projects often change based on a variety of technical and epidemiological factors.”

Zika virus and Brazil, 3D illustration. 

Some of those factors include the decrease in the number of Zika cases in the Americas making recruiting enough subjects for clinical trials problematic and industry concern that the market for the vaccine wouldn’t be large enough to make suitable profits.  In an interview for STAT last November, Heinrichs said that some of his company’s models said that the vaccine would be profitable and some said that it wouldn’t, so the company planned to let time tell the tale.

During the height of the Zika epidemic in the winter of 2016, there were loud calls for a vaccine and U.S. officials fast-tracked Zika vaccine development.  A number of possible vaccines went into human clinical trials before the end of the year, which is remarkable considering that no one had been working on the virus before that point.

To read the Sanofi statement, go to http://www.news.sanofi.us/Sanofi-Statement-on-Zika-Vaccine-License.

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