Government and Regulations

Novel Messenger RNA Vaccine in Development for Zika

The HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response awards $8.2 million towards the assistance, oversight, and funding of an mRNA based Zika vaccine.


A novel anti-Zika vaccine based on messenger RNA (mRNA) technology received financial backing from HHS. Moderna Therapeutics, Cambridge, Massachusetts, will get $8.2 million to accelerate the development of the vaccine.

Messenger RNA carries specific genetic codes to parts of the cell. The vaccine uses mRNA containing the genetic sequence of the Zika virus to generate an immune response.

This technology produces vaccine faster than other methods, which require the growth and purification of an attenuated or inactivated virus, HHS says. Moderna also is designing the vaccine to be easy to administer by not requiring any specialized delivery devices.

Under the initial 4-year agreement, HHS’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) will support a phase 1 clinical trial, toxicology studies, vaccine formulation, and manufacturing. If additional funding is identified the agreement could be extended to 5 years, with a total of $125.5 million to cover phase 2 and 3 clinical trials and large-scale manufacturing.

The funding is part of an obligated $85 million BARDA “reprogrammed” for Zika work. The funds are also being used to develop other Zika vaccines, blood screening tests, and pathogen reduction technologies.

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