ZIKV mRNA Vaccine Development for Lab Research

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Last modified: 3 May 2024
ZIKV mRNA Vaccine Development
ZIKV mRNA Vaccine Development | Photo: Alfa Chemistry

Zika virus (ZIKV), first identified in 1947, is a mosquito-borne and sexually transmitted flavivirus that has been associated with microcephaly and other birth defects in newborns and Guillain-Barré syndrome in adults.

It has caused major epidemics in the Americas and has spread to at least 84 countries and territories since 2015, leading to significant public health concerns worldwide. The explosive emergence of ZIKV has inspired a global effort to develop vaccines.

An effective and protective vaccine relies on several requirements, which include:

  1. induction of specific immune response against immunodominant antigens;
  2. selection of adjuvant-antigen formulation;
  3. assessment of safety, effectiveness, and long-term protection.

The rapid development of a safe and efficacious vaccine against ZIKV is unequivocally an important goal. Such vaccines should prevent the acquisition of infection and protect against the severe sequelae caused by the virus. In addition, such vaccines need to be inexpensive enough to be widely available, especially in resource-poor countries where most outbreaks occur.

mRNA vaccine platform for ZIKV

mRNA is a promising new vaccine modality that elicits an effective immune response while avoiding the safety risks and anti-vector immunity associated with some live virus vaccines. Based on these advantages, mRNA vaccines are an attractive platform for vaccine development against ZIKV.

Two distinct mRNA vaccine approaches have been applied to ZIKV.

The first is based on the use of modified nucleotides and codon optimization that increases stability and diminishes detection by intracellular innate immune sensors, resulting in higher magnitude and duration of vaccine antigen production.

A second mRNA vaccine approach is self-amplifying mRNA, based on alphavirus amplicons and initially developed by Novartis. This technology differs from the modified mRNA approach because it rapidly produces many transcripts and vaccine antigen and significant activation of innate sensors, and is thereby “self-adjuvanted.”

Solutions for ZIKV

Affordable, easily available, and highly effective vaccines that prevent ZIKV infection are key to protecting the public, particularly women of childbearing age. However, the key to developing a vaccine lies in the knowledge of ZIKV.

ZIKV has a single-stranded, positive sense RNA genome that encodes a polyprotein consisting of capsid, precursor transmembrane (prM), and envelope (E) structural proteins, as well as NS1, NS2A, NS2B, NS3, NS4A, NS4B, and NS5 nonstructural proteins.

The surface E protein mediates virus binding and membrane fusion, and it is thus a major target for the development of ZIKV vaccines. With in-depth knowledge of Zika virus theory and advanced mRNA vaccine technology, Alfa chemistry has the ability to develop mRNA vaccines with potent immunogenicity, thus enabling efficient intra-host antigen production and facilitating the antibody response to ZIKV.

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Alfa Chemistry

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