Hawaii Biotech, Inc., in collaboration with Baylor College of Medicine and the Sabin Vaccine Institute at Texas Children’s Hospital, has been awarded a grant by The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, to develop a vaccine to protect against infection caused by the mosquito-borne chikungunya virus.

Chikungunya virus is transmitted by the bite of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the mosquito that also transmits dengue and Zika virus. Common symptoms of chikungunya virus infection are fever and joint pain. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling or rash. At this time there is no vaccine to prevent or therapeutic medicine to treat chikungunya virus infection. Chikungunya has emerged as a major arbovirus infection that threatens global public health.

The Small Business Innovation Research Phase I grant will be used to develop a vaccine using Hawaii Biotech's proprietary recombinant subunit protein vaccine platform, which is also currently being used to develop a vaccine for Zika. The same platform technology was previously used to develop vaccines against similar mosquito-borne viruses including dengue and West Nile, which have been evaluated in human clinical studies.

David Clements, director of Vaccine Research at Hawaii Biotech, will be coordinating development efforts with Dr. Coreen Beaumier, assistant professor at the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor and co-director of Product Development at Sabin Vaccine Institute and Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, together with Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi, deputy director, and Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor and president of Sabin Vaccine Institute.

"We're thrilled to partner with Hawaii Biotech on this important vaccine," said Hotez. "Chikungunya, like Zika, is infecting large populations throughout the Latin America and Caribbean region. In addition, chikungunya transmission has now begun in Texas. This is a disease that will be endemic to the Western Hemisphere for years to come."

“This award enables Hawaii Biotech to apply our knowledge and experience in recombinant subunit vaccine development to this important emerging disease threat,” said Clements. “The recent outbreaks of both chikungunya and Zika viruses in tropical and sub-tropical areas pose major public health threats to individuals living in these areas, as well as global travelers."

"Hawaii Biotech is pleased to be able to contribute to the protection of people against illness from these mosquito-borne threats,” added Dr. Elliot Parks, HBI’s CEO.

"This grant offers us an exciting opportunity to partner our expertise in preclinical testing with Hawaii Biotech on an effort to develop a vaccine to Chikungunya virus, an emerging mosquito-borne threat," said Beaumier.

Hawaii Biotech is also collaborating with Drs. Beaumier and Hotez and others at Baylor and Sabin Vaccine Institute in Houston on the development of a therapeutic West Nile virus vaccine.

“This funding will allow Hawaii Biotech to expand our productive collaborations with our colleagues at Baylor College of Medicine and the Sabin Vaccine Institute,” Parks added.