vaccine parenteral vialVBI Vaccines Inc. has applied its clinical-stage eVLP Platform to the development of a novel vaccine candidate to prevent Zika virus infection.

“The alarming rise of Zika, and the sharp increase in neurological disorders seen in affected areas, intensifies the need to develop a safe and effective vaccine capable of preventing Zika infection,” said Jeff Baxter, VBI’s President and CEO. “We are using our eVLP Platform, and the expertise gained in the development of our cytomegalovirus vaccine candidate, now in Phase I clinical trials, as we advance this important programme. Between this Zika programme and our Phase I cytomegalovirus candidate, VBI’s pipeline now targets two of the most significant causes of serious birth defects.”

VBI’s eVLP Platform enables the development of enveloped virus-like particle (eVLP) vaccines that closely mimic the structure of viruses found in nature, but without the viral genome, potentially yielding safer and more potent vaccine candidates. eVLPs are highly customizable, which allows VBI to rationally design preventative or therapeutic vaccine candidates.

VBI is developing a bivalent Zika vaccine candidate consisting of E glycoprotein (found on the surface of Zika virus) and NS1 glycoprotein (secreted during Zika viral replication). During recent testing, VBI used a cell entry assay to confirm the presence of E glycoproteins on the surface of its Zika eVLPs; the conformation was found to be suitable for receptor binding and cell entry.

“Preclinical analytical testing suggests that our Zika eVLPs present target proteins in a shape that resembles the virus as it is found in nature, potentially allowing for a potent immune response,” said Dr David E. Anderson, PhD, VBI’s Chief Scientific Officer. “We have begun testing in animal models to help validate the immunogenicity and protective potential of this approach.”