U.S. Army teams with drug company to find Zika vaccine

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Healthcare providers and public health officials alike are itching to get national and global anti-Zika plans off the ground as soon as possible, especially as mosquito season takes hold in the Northern Hemisphere.

So the U.S. Army is putting its weight behind the French drug manufacturer Sanofi to get a Zika vaccine to market more quickly. The Army says it already has an inactivated-virus vaccine ready to go at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Md., and Sanafi will take over trials and further development.

The military already has tested that vaccine, ZPIV, on mice and published its findings in the journal Nature. In a statement about the partnership, Army Col. Stephen Thomas said they’d been researching similar vaccines for years, but sped up their work as fighting the current Zika outbreak became more urgent. The World Health Organization has counted 61 countries recording transmission of the disease.

But developing the drug, getting FDA approval and finding a way to mass-produce it can take up to 10 years.

"Hopefully that's not going to be the case here, because we're in the middle of an epidemic and an outbreak that's taking a significant toll on the affected countries,” Thomas said.

For example, CBS News points out that Sanafi’s efforts to create a dengue fever vaccine lasted 20 years and cost $1 billion.

Reuters said Sanafi is still working on its own Zika inoculation, but couldn’t start clinical trials until next year. And both other companies and U.S. government agencies are in the midst of their own Zika drug projects, such as Inovio Pharmaceuticals, GeneOne Life Science and the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Health and Human Services, according to the Wall Street Journal.