The University of Georgia announced Wednesday that it has entered into a collaborative research agreement with GeoVax Labs Inc. to develop and test a vaccine to prevent the emerging and virulent Zika virus infection.
The collaboration will combine the vaccine development expertise of UGA researchers led by Ted Ross, director of UGA’s Center for Vaccines and Immunology, with GeoVax’s novel vaccine platform technology. Ross, a professor and Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Infectious Diseases in the College of Veterinary Medicine, joined UGA last fall.
The World Health Organization on Monday declared Zika virus an international health emergency, noting that Zika is spreading explosively and could affect as many as 4 million people in the Americas by the end of the year. The mosquito-transmitted virus is linked with birth defects in thousands of babies in Brazil, and more recently, with Guillain-Barré syndrome, a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks the nervous system. The virus is anticipated to spread to countries throughout the Western Hemisphere, with the exception of Canada and Chile.
There is no proven vaccine or treatment for Zika, which is closely related to yellow fever, dengue and chikungunya viruses, also transmitted to people by mosquitoes.
“This important partnership with GeoVax is consistent with one of our highest priorities, namely to work effectively with industry to address important challenges facing the state, the nation and the world,” said David Lee, UGA vice president for research.