A location in Connecticut has the capability of protecting the world from the Zika virus.
On Monday, the World Health Organization declared the disease a “public health emergency of international concern.”
When reports of the virus first started coming out, scientists at Protein Sciences in Meriden began working on a way to stop it.
“We knew right away that this was something that we could address using our technology,” said Rachael Felberbaum, the senior director of the business development at Protein Sciences.
Protein Sciences developed the Flublok vaccine for the seasonal flu.
“We have the manufacturing facilities up and running,” Felberbaum said. “Those same facilities can be used to make a Zika vaccine, an Ebola vaccine [and] whatever else would be needed.”
She said the only problem is a big financial roadblock.
“We need the support from the government to say 'ok, let's actually take these new vaccines, fund the testing [and] let's make sure they're safe,’” Felberbaum said. “’So that when there is an outbreak, we're ready to go!’”
Felberbaum said vaccine testing is an expensive process due to safety regulations, clinical trials and statistics.
“It's a national effort,” she said. “[There are] multiple sites [and] multiple centers across the whole country.”
However, even if the country financially backs a Zika vaccine, there’s a good chance if the outbreak starts to subside that the funding will as well.
“With the SARS vaccine, we had it all ready to go to the human clinical testing and then the government decided not to fund it, so it sat in our refrigerator,” Felberbaum said. “But then the manufacturers can't develop it. So then if there's a future outbreak, you have a problem.”
For now, Protein Sciences said it will use its initial investments as it continues on the path to a Zika virus vaccine.
However, Felberbaum said a time will come when it needs more money to move forward either for this disease or another.
“Emerging diseases just aren't going away,” she said. “And we never know which is going to be the next one.”
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