Rapid response to an emerging infectious disease – Lessons learned from development of a synthetic DNA vaccine targeting Zika virus

Sagar B. Kudchodkar, Hyeree Choi, Emma L. Reuschel, Rianne Esquivel, Jackie Jin-Ah Kwon, Moonsup Jeong, Joel N. Maslow, Charles C. Reed, Scott White, J. Joseph Kim, Gary P. Kobinger, Pablo Tebas, David B. Weiner, Kar Muthumani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Vaccines are considered one of the greatest advances in modern medicine. The global burden of numerous infectious diseases has been significantly reduced, and in some cases, effectively eradicated through the deployment of specific vaccines. However, efforts to develop effective new vaccines against infectious pathogens such as influenza, Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), dengue virus (DENV), chikungunya virus (CHIKV), Ebola virus, and Zika virus (ZIKV) have proven challenging. Zika virus is a mosquito-vectored flavivirus responsible for periodic outbreaks of disease in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands dating back over 50 years. Over this period, ZIKV infections were subclinical in most infected individuals and resulted in mild cases of fever, arthralgia, and rash in others. Concerns about ZIKV changed over the past two years, however, as outbreaks in Brazil, Central American countries, and Caribbean islands revealed novel aspects of infection including vertical and sexual transmission modes. Cases have been reported showing dramatic neurological pathologies including microcephaly and other neurodevelopmental problems in babies born to ZIKV infected mothers, as well as an increased risk of Guillain-Barre syndrome in adults. These findings prompted the World Health Organization to declare ZIKV a public health emergency in 2016, which resulted in expanded efforts to develop ZIKV vaccines and immunotherapeutics. Several ZIKV vaccine candidates that are immunogenic and effective at blocking ZIKV infection in animal models have since been developed, with some of these now being evaluated in the clinic. Additional therapeutics under investigation include anti-ZIKV monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) that have been shown to neutralize infection in vitro as well as protect against morbidity in mouse models of ZIKV infection. In this review, we summarize the current understanding of ZIKV biology and describe our efforts to rapidly develop a vaccine against ZIKV.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)676-684
Number of pages9
JournalMicrobes and Infection
Issue number11-12
StatePublished - Dec 2018


  • Animal models
  • DNA vaccines
  • Flaviviruses
  • Immunity
  • Immunopathology
  • ZIKV vaccine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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