Colorado State University announced a $9.5 million partnering agreement with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, or CEPI, to develop a single-dose vaccine for Rift Valley fever, or RFV.
“We can and must do more to develop a safe and effective human vaccine against this deadly virus to protect those people who are most at risk and to improve global epidemic preparedness,” Melanie Saville, MB, BS, MSc, CEPI’s director of vaccine development, told Infectious Disease News.
No licensed human vaccine currently exists to prevent the virus, although animal vaccines have been effectively used to neutralize it in livestock, according to a press release. Funds from the partnership will be primarily used to conduct preclinical studies over the next 18 months on a second-generation vaccine candidate for humans, called DDVax, which is missing key genes of the virus that allow it to cause disease.
Rift Valley Fever is often spread via contact between humans and livestock.
Although most infected individuals experience only mild symptoms, the hemorrhagic form of the disease can be deadly — a 2016 RVF outbreak in the Republic of Niger left 105 individuals infected, and 28 cases resulted in death, according to WHO.
RVF is primarily found in sub-Saharan Africa, but in previous decades, it has spread as far as Saudi Arabia and Yemen, WHO said. Mosquitos transmit the virus to livestock, which then pass it to humans via contact with blood or organs of the infected animals, making the virus especially prevalent among farmers, veterinarians and slaughterhouse workers.
“The virus is endemic throughout sub-Saharan Africa, and outbreaks usually occur in pastoral communities in lower income countries,” said John Wyckoff, PhD, BS, director of CSU’s Biopharmaceutical Manufacturing and Academic Resource Center and the university’s principal investigator on the project. “There is an urgent need to develop a vaccine for humans to mitigate this emerging epidemic threat, protect vulnerable communities, and strengthen global health security in the process.”– by Eamon Dreisbach
WHO. River Valley fever. https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/rift-valley-fever. Accessed July 17, 2019.
Disclosures: Saville is the director of vaccine development for CEPI. Wyckoff is the director of BioMARC at CSU.