Pharmaceutical Sector Current Affairs

ICMR, Health Ministry ink MoU with IVI for vaccine R&D

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and Ministry of Health inked Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the International Vaccine Institute (IVI) to collaborate on vaccine research and development.

The signing of the MoU is a continuation of India’s partnership with IVI to provide safe, effective and affordable vaccines for people around the world. With this partnership, India is committing an annual contribution of US $5,00,000 to IVI.

Background

India is a vaccine industry powerhouse that supplies 60% of the world’s vaccines. India has with a long history of scientific collaboration with IVI. IVI has been partnering with Indian vaccine manufacturers, research institutes, government, and public health agencies on vaccine R&D. One of the most successful collaboration of IVI was with India’s Shantha Biotech on development of Shanchol, world’s first low-cost oral cholera vaccine. The vaccine was licensed in India in 2009 and WHO-prequalified in 2011.

International Vaccine Institute (IVI)

IVI is Seoul (South Korea) based international nonprofit organization devoted to developing and introducing new and improved vaccines to protect the people, especially children, against deadly infectious diseases. It was established in 1997 on the initiatives of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Its work is exclusively on vaccine development and introduction specifically for people in developing countries, with a focus on neglected diseases affecting these regions. Currently, IVI has 40 countries and the World Health Organization (WHO) as signatories to its Establishment Agreement. India officially became a signatory to the IVI in 2012.

Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)

The ICMR is India’s apex scientific body for the formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research. It was established in 1911 as Indian Research Fund Association (IRFA) making it one of the oldest and largest medical research bodies in the world. The ICMR functions under the Department of Health Research, Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

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Scientists develop world’s first plant-based Zika vaccine

Scientists from US have developed the world’s first plant-based Zika vaccine that may be more effective, safer and cheaper than other vaccines against the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

The vaccine was developed using proteins derived from Tobacco plant. Currently, there are no licensed vaccines or therapeutics available to combat Zika.

 Key Facts

The plant-based Zika vaccine works against DIII, a part of a Zika viral protein that plays a key role for the virus to infect people. All flaviviruses have the envelope protein on the outside part of the virus. It has three domains. The domain III has a unique stretch of DNA for the Zika virus.

Researchers exploited domain III to generate a robust and protective immune response that is unique for Zika. First they had grown the envelope protein in bacteria then prepared the DIII protein domain in tobacco plants. The multiple immunisation experiments of the vaccine performed on mice shows 100% protection against multiple Zika virus strains in mice.

Significance: The plant protein-based vaccine uses smallest and most unique part of the Zika virus that can still elicit a potent and robust immune response. It produces a potent protective immune response against Zika Virus and also not produce antibodies that may be cross reactive for West Nile fever, Dengue, Yellow fever or others.

About Zika virus

Zika virus is vector borne disease transmitted primarily by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, the same mosquito that transmits dengue, West Nile fever, Yellow fever. The virus has been named after Zika forest in Uganda where it was first isolated in 1947.

The virus is capable of causing serious birth defects i.e. neurological disorders and foetal deformation known as Microcephaly in which infants are born with abnormally smaller heads. Besides a possible link between the virus and Guillain-Barré syndrome (a condition in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the nervous system) is also suspected. It is also found that, sexual transmission of Zika virus disease is possible.

The worldwide Zika threat first emerged in 2015, infecting millions in South America. The World Health Organization (WHO) had declared the disease as epidemic and global health emergency but later revoked it after the outbreak was brought under control.

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