HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii Biotech, developer of molecular vaccines for West Nile virus and dengue fever, has begun working on one for the Zika virus.
"We made the decision to start work now," Hawaii Biotech CEO Dr. Elliott Parks said on Sunrise, "because we were confident our experience with West Nile and dengue fever would get us a contract to do the work."
The move was announced Monday as Gov. David Ige, Sen. Mazie Hirono and state Health Director Dr. Virgina Pressler jointly called for more emergency federal funding to prepare for a Zika outbreak.
Legacy vaccines are made from the disease they fight, and carry a small risk of actually getting the disease from the shot. Hawaii Biotech produces vaccines at the molecular level, from certain proteins, so there isn't any disease, dead or otherwise, in the drug that results.
This method has already worked for West Nile and dengue fever so it has a track record of success.
Because of the time pressure, Dr. Parks said some of the work will be done on the mainland.
"We'll do some research here but the lab work on the mainland," he said. "We don't have the Zika virus here and getting a permit to bring it here would take too much time."
As things stand, Dr. Park hopes Hawaii Biotech can have a vaccine ready next year.
The first Zika-related death was reported in the U.S. on Friday. The Centers for Disease Control says a 70-year-old man died from a severe reaction to the virus in Puerto Rico back in February.