Japan scientists get backing for work on Nipah vaccine

Reuters London | Updated on February 25, 2019 Published on February 25, 2019

CEPI in $31-m deal with scientists to speed up research

A global coalition set up to fight emerging epidemics has struck a $31-million deal with scientists at Japan’s University of Tokyo to speed up work on a vaccine against a brain-damaging disease caused by the Nipah virus.

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) said the Tokyo University team would receive up to $31 million to advance the development and manufacturing of a shot for the bat-borne disease.

Nipah virus was first identified in 1999 during an outbreak of illness affecting pig farmers and others in close contact with pigs in Malaysia and Singapore.

More than 100 people died in that outbreak, and about a million pigs were killed to try to halt its spread.

Nipah is transmitted to humans via direct contact with infected bats, infected pigs or other infected people. At least 17 people were killed in an outbreak of Nipah in India last year in which 19 cases were reported — giving a case fatality rate of 90 per cent.

“There is an urgent need for accelerated research and development for the Nipah virus,” Richard Hatchett, CEPI’s Chief Executive Officer, said.

‘Priority pathogen’ list

Nipah is on the World Health Organisation’s research and development “priority pathogen” list alongside Ebola, Zika, MERS, Lassa and Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever.

The Tokyo team’s experimental vaccine is designed using a weakened measles viral vaccine with Nipah virus genes inserted into it. CEPI said its funding would support advancement of the potential vaccine candidate through mid-stage trials in humans, with a view to its being manufactured and stockpiled for investigational use.

Published on February 25, 2019
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