A vaccine developed by French biotech Valneva for the mosquito-borne chikungunya virus is showing big potential in a phase I study.

The vaccine is a live, weakened form of the chikungunya virus. All 120 healthy volunteers taking part in the trial had made antibodies against the virus when measured 28 days after receiving the initial shot. The vaccine also showed no serious adverse events in the same time period.

The volunteers in the trial will receive additional injections of the vaccine 6 and 12 months after the initial shot to confirm that it gives long-lasting protection.

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This prophylactic vaccine is unique because it should protect people from the virus for years after receiving a single shot, according to a spokesman from Valneva. The vaccine was awarded an FDA fast-track designation in December 2018 to accelerate its clinical development.

With these promising results, Valneva hopes to move this candidate into pivotal clinical trials as quickly as possible, though it did not specify when this will take place.

chikungunya virus Themis bioscience

The chikungunya virus

Chikungunya is a virus borne in tropical regions by mosquito species from the Aedes genus. However, Chikungunya is currently spreading, with breakouts in Europe in 2017. The virus can cause debilitating symptoms such as fever and long-lasting joint pains.

Valneva is working on vaccines for other tropical diseases. The company’s vaccine for the tick-borne Lyme disease, entering phase II, is the most advanced Lyme disease vaccine in development. Valneva is also working on a vaccine for Zika, another Aedes-borne virus, with the US company Emergent BioSolutions. This Zika vaccine, potentially the first to reach the market, recently showed positive outcomes in a phase I trial.

Recently, Valneva also made an interesting financial move in the stock market, announcing its plan to delist from the Vienna Stock Exchange, and instead to focus on Euronext Paris in late 2019. This was because the bulk of Valneva’s shares are spread across Europe, requiring a more international focus, explained the Valneva spokesman.

Mosquito-borne diseases are the focus of other biotechs too, including the Austrian biotech Themis, whose own vaccine for chikungunya recently had a successful phase II trial and is to begin phase III in 2020. The French giant Sanofi’s vaccine for dengue fever was approved by the European Commission last month. The UK biotech Oxitec has an alternative approach, releasing mosquitoes into the wild that are genetically engineered to be infertile, reducing their population. 


Images from Shutterstock

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