LONDON – A global coalition set up to fight emerging epidemics has struck a $31 million deal with scientists at the 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 University of Tokyo 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 illnesses affecting pig farmers and others in close contact with pigs in Malaysia and Singapore. More than 100 people died in the 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 another outbreak of Nipah last year in India, in which 19 cases were reported — giving a case fatality rate of 90 percent.
CEPI, which was set up at the start of 2017, aims to dramatically speed up the development of vaccines against new and unknown diseases — collectively known as “Disease X.”
“There is an urgent need for accelerated research and development for the Nipah virus,” Richard Hatchett, CEPI’s chief executive officer, said in a statement. “Not only is the case fatality rate for this disease high … there is a serious risk (it) could become a threat to global health security.”
Nipah is on the World Health Organization’s research and development “priority pathogen” list alongside Ebola, Zika, MERS, Lassa and Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic 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 midstage trials in humans, with a view to its being manufactured and stockpiled for investigational use.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.