EMA establishes Zika task force as pharmaceutical firms ponder vaccines

Task force will be available to give advice on any scientific and regulatory matters

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has established an expert task force on the Zika virus to advise pharmaceutical firms on securing market approval for new drugs. With no treatments currently approved and none undergoing clinical studies, EMA wants Zika medicines developed quickly. A communiqué said the taskforce 'will be available to give advice on any scientific and regulatory matters for the research and development of medicines or vaccines against the virus'. This includes offering scientific advice on treatments that will mainly be used outside the EU, (Zika is uncommon in Europe).

The Agency added that it wanted medicines developers to contact its officials about any promising anti-Zika projects and it would contact companies already planning work on investigational vaccines and offer scientific and regulatory advice.

'Early and regular interaction with the agency can significantly speed up the development of medicines,' EMA noted.

The move follows the convening of an international health regulations emergency committee on Zika at the World Health Organisation (WHO), which has declared that the virus is a public health emergency of international concern.

Meanwhile, pharmaceutical firms have announced that they are working hard on Zika medicines. France’s Sanofi Pasteur has said it will build on its vaccines for dengue, yellow fever and Japanese encephalitis to develop a Zika vaccine. Also, a consortium that includes US-based Inovio Pharmaceuticals has said it wants a vaccine candidate ready by December. And another American company, NewLink Genetics Corporation, has said that it will use experience gained with other flaviviruses to work on a Zika vaccine.