Wistar Team Receives Award from National Clinical Research Forum for DNA-based Zika Research

The Wistar Institute and partners at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Inovio Pharmaceuticals, and GeneOne Life Science were recognized among the Top 10 Clinical Research Achievement Awards by the Clinical Research Forum for their ground-breaking phase 1 DNA-based Zika vaccine research – the first trial of a Zika vaccine in humans, which proved safe and effective. These study results were published in October in the New England Journal of Medicine.

David B. Weiner, PhD, executive vice president, director of the Vaccine & Immunotherapy Center, and the W.W. Smith Endowed Chair in Cancer Research at the Wistar Institute, and peers received the 2018 Top Ten Clinical Research Achievement Award last night at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Recognizing the need to celebrate our nation’s clinical research accomplishments that involve both innovation and impact on human disease, the Clinical Research Forum conducts this annual competition to determine the top 10 most outstanding research papers written by teams from across the nation. Research by award-recipients exemplifies major advances resulting from the nation’s investment in research to benefit the health and welfare of its citizens.

The Clinical Research Forum board of directors selected winners based on the degree of innovation and novelty involved in the advancement of science; contribution to the understanding of human disease and/or physiology; and potential impact upon the diagnosis, prevention and/or treatment of disease. All awardees were published in peer-reviewed journals last year.

This paper showcased research results from the new DNA-based Zika vaccine that is based on synthetic DNA and gives instructions to the body’s immune system to produce antibodies to attack Zika antigens (i.e. bacteria, viruses, and other foreign substances that trigger immune responses from the body.) In this study, a total of 40 participants received GLS-5700, the new vaccine, against two proteins of the Zika virus. The vaccine induced antibodies in 100 percent of the participants after a three-dose course of therapy and in 95 percent after two doses of vaccine. When blood from vaccinated subjects was then transferred to mice, more than 90 percent of the animals were protected from death and illness despite being exposed to a lethal dose of the Zika virus.

GLS-5700, which was designed and tested in seven months, differs from conventional vaccines, which typically use inactivated or killed versions of a virus and can take years to develop and test. The synthetic vaccine features portions of Zika-virus genes made in a laboratory, which are added to a ring of genetic material called a plasmid. After the vaccine is injected under the skin, electrical impulses are generated, producing small holes in cells, allowing the DNA to enter and initiate the immune response.

Further studies will be needed to evaluate the efficacy of the vaccine and its long-term safety.

Source: Wistar Institute