The Race for a Zika Vaccine
The Zika virus thrives in tropical climates. But it is also growing in this cold-weather city — up a flight of stairs, past a flier for lunchtime yoga and behind a locked door. That is where scientists working in a lab for Takeda, the Japanese drug company, inspect and test vials of the virus.
They are engaged in an all-out race to halt Zika, a disease that has set off worldwide alarm because of its links to severe birth defects. Day and night, these researchers are trying to crack the code to the virus.
“We’re slaves to the cells,” Jeremy Fuchs, a senior researcher at the lab, said.
And they are far from alone. Perhaps never before have so many companies and government organizations worked so quickly to develop a vaccine from scratch. Vaccines usually take a decade or more to develop. But researchers say a Zika vaccine could be available as early as 2018, in what would be a remarkable two-year turnaround.
More than a dozen companies are on the hunt, in addition to government stalwarts like the National Institutes of Health. To get ahead, some teams are employing innovative technologies that rely on splicing DNA, a method that has the potential to revolutionize the development of vaccines but that has never before been approved for use in humans.