News Feature | November 25, 2014

First Chikungunya Vaccine Succeeds In Phase 1 Study

By C. Rajan, contributing writer

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Vienna-based biotech company, Themis Bioscience, has announced the positive results from a phase 1 clinical study of its prophylactic Chikungunya fever vaccine candidate. This first vaccine developed for the Chikungunya viral infection successfully induced neutralizing antibodies against the virus.

The vaccine, which is based upon a measles vaccine vector technology (called Themaxyn), was developed in collaboration with the Institut Pasteur in France. After the success of their first co-developed vaccine trial, the two organizations intend to extend their collaboration to develop vaccines for other infectious diseases.

The Phase 1 clinical trial was performed on 42 subjects at the Vienna General Hospital, and the vaccine was found to generate the desired immune response in all the vaccinated subjects by stimulating the production of the necessary neutralizing antibodies. Moreover, an immune response was observed with even the lowest dose of the vaccine, and found to increase with increasing dose strength. The vaccine candidate was also safe and well tolerated in all the subjects.

According to Themis, using a standard measles vector platform for developing this vaccine played a large role in the success of the trial. Themis and the Institut Pasteur are also collaborating on developing a dengue fever vaccine candidate using this same technology.

Frédéric Tangy at the Institut Pasteur, said, "The phase 1 results of the Chikungunya vaccine candidate prove that the measles vector vaccine platform can be used successfully to develop a new generation of prophylactic vaccines, and the Institut Pasteur, which developed its core technology, is keen to strengthen its alliance with Themis to develop those innovative vaccine candidates."

Chikungunya is a viral disease that is transmitted by infected mosquitoes, and causes fever, muscle pain, and severe joint pain, which can persist for weeks. While Chikungunya is more prevalent in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Caribbean islands, it is spreading to other parts of the world through travelers. According to a recent National Geographic report, Chikungunya is one of the major tropical diseases that poses a growing threat to the U.S.

In the past year, a large outbreak of Chikungunya in the Americas affected more than 780,000 persons. There is no known treatment for this disease, which can cause debilitating joint pain similar to rheumatoid arthritis, especially in elderly and female patients.

Dr. Erich Tauber, founder and CEO of Themis, says, "We could confirm that our Chikungunya vaccine candidate is well tolerated, safe, and elicits the expected immune response. Considering the ongoing spread of Chikungunya epidemic, we now focus on making the vaccine available as soon as possible. We will also strengthen our already successful alliance with the Institut Pasteur."