Health Care

Zika vaccine is being funded by U.S. taxpayers. But the drugmaker rejects ‘fair price’

Zika is transmitted primarily by the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito, pictured here. scientists with the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) launched early stage clinical trials in November that they hope will lead to the development of a vaccine against the virus. But an exclusive deal for Sanofi Pasteur, granted by the U.S. Army, has angered lawmakers who say the company will be able to charge whatever price it wants when a vaccine is developed.
Zika is transmitted primarily by the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito, pictured here. scientists with the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) launched early stage clinical trials in November that they hope will lead to the development of a vaccine against the virus. But an exclusive deal for Sanofi Pasteur, granted by the U.S. Army, has angered lawmakers who say the company will be able to charge whatever price it wants when a vaccine is developed.

A French pharmaceutical company developing a Zika vaccine funded with millions of dollars in research grants from American taxpayers has rejected a request from the U.S. Army to set an affordable price for the drug once it becomes available.

Sanofi Pasteur has already received $43 million in research grants from the Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Army intends to award an exclusive contract to the company to license and sell a vaccine based on technology discovered with American taxpayer funds.

Scientists with the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, which is part of the Department of Defense, launched early stage clinical trials in November — after partnering with Sanofi as a research partner.

But the Army’s intention to award an exclusive deal for Sanofi has angered some lawmakers, including former presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who argue that the drugmaker will be able to charge whatever price it wants for a vaccine.

This is not the only clinical trial of Zika vaccine taking place. As the first place in the continental United States with a confirmed outbreak of Zika spread by mosquitoes last summer, Miami also is one of three sites where federal health officials announced plans for a second phase of a clinical trial testing a different experimental DNA vaccine for the virus.

WRAIR test culture Zika vaccine
Scientists with the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in November launched the first of five early stage clinical trials that they hope will lead to the development of a vaccine against the Zika virus.

The vaccine was developed by federal government scientists with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is part of the National Institutes of Health. The trial will enroll at least 2,490 healthy participants in areas with confirmed or potential active spread of Zika by mosquitoes, including Miami, Houston, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Peru, Costa Rica, Panama and Mexico.

In South Florida, the clinical trial will take place at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, with Margaret Fischl, a UM infectious disease physician and scientist, as the principal investigator responsible for conducting daily reviews of safety data.

The NIH expects the study to be completed by 2019. For more information about the clinical trial in Miami, call 305-243-3838.

A previous version of this article misstated the U.S. Army’s notice of intent to grant an exclusive license for a Zika vaccine to Sanofi Pasteur.

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