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Another major pharmaceutical company is getting into the race to produce a Zika vaccine.

Takeda Vaccines of Deerfield, Ill., announced Thursday it will pursue development of a Zika vaccine with funding from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services that spurs development of drugs, vaccines, and diagnostic tests needed to respond to or prepare for health emergencies.


The initial contract with BARDA is for $19.8 million to fund preclinical research and vaccine manufacturing needed for Phase 1 clinical trials to begin in 2017. Phase 1 trials are the earliest stage of human testing. They are small studies designed to see if a drug or vaccine is safe to use; they also establish what an effective dose should be.

The approach Takeda plans to take is one which may take the quickest path to licensure, if it works.

The company will make an inactivated, adjuvanted vaccine, using killed Zika viruses. Inactivated vaccines have been used for decades to protect against a variety of diseases and have well-established safety records. But they tend not to generate as strong an immune response as some other vaccine types, which is why they are often paired with adjuvants — compounds that boost the effect of the vaccine.


Takeda Vaccines, a US-based division of Japan’s Takeda Pharmaceuticals Company, said the BARDA funding for the work could stretch to $312 million if the agency continues to support the project through later-stage clinical trials and the process of applying for Food and Drug Administration approval.

A statement from the company said Takeda is also in discussions with the Japanese government regarding potential collaboration on the Zika vaccine project.

Other big name vaccine manufacturers working on a Zika vaccine include Sanofi-Pasteur and GlaxoSmithKline.