Update on GSK’s response to the Zika virus disease outbreak

Since the outbreak of Zika virus disease began in the Americas late last year, GSK has been assessing how we can best help to respond.  The World Health Organisation has declared Zika and the increase in neurological disorders and neonatal malformations associated with it to be a public health emergency of international concern.

Over the past months, we have been assessing the feasibility of starting a Zika vaccine discovery programme, based on our novel vaccine technology platforms which we believe could be suitable for working on this target.

These feasibility assessments have concluded and we are now preparing research studies that will evaluate a new vaccine technology for Zika known as SAM (self-amplifying mRNA) in collaboration with the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the USA. We believe that this novel technology may have the potential to induce protective immunity against Zika. This project will be based at the newest GSK Vaccine R&D Center in Rockville, Maryland.

We will partner with research groups at the NIH to explore this concept in laboratory-based studies and, if this goes well, to accelerate our ability to transition this technology to a stage where a clinical proof of concept can be achieved.

However, vaccine research and development is a lengthy process, typically taking 10-15 years. Laboratory-based studies are the very first studies to evaluate the potential of an experimental vaccine technology before it can be tested in people.

Alongside our research efforts, we are also working with our humanitarian partners in the region, Save the Children and AmeriCares, to support prevention and education efforts which are vital to tackle the spread of the virus at a community level.

Zika, along with a number of other recent outbreaks such as Ebola, show it is essential that the world is better prepared and takes a proactive approach to identify and respond to future public health threats in advance of outbreaks to avoid devastating consequences for human health, economies and global security.

As a global leader in vaccines, GSK is committed to working with partners and governments who are keen to advance early development of candidate vaccines against potential global public health threats.