Pharma Company Sanofi Is Working on a Zika Vaccine

Cambridge-based Genzyme, a subset of Sanofi, will also be involved.

Fewer than 24 hours after the World Health Organization declared the Zika virus an international public health emergency, drug development company Sanofi Pasteur announced that it will join the hunt for a Zika vaccine.

The pharmaceutical company has developed vaccines for other mosquito-borne illnesses, such as yellow fever and dengue, and representatives said Tuesday that they believe similar techniques could be used to inoculate against Zika. So far, Sanofi Pasteur is the largest company actively working toward a shot for the quickly spreading virus.

“Sanofi Pasteur is responding to the global call to action to develop a Zika vaccine given the disease’s rapid spread and possible medical complications,” Nicholas Jackson, the project lead, said in a statement.

The bulk of research and development will happen in France, where Sanofi Pasteur is based. Some of the work may, however, be completed by a Cambridge branch of the company. (Sanofi owns Cambridge-based biotech company Genzyme.)

“We believe that global and regional collaborations are going to be critical to tackle Zika and are exploring a range of collaborative efforts in and outside the United States in order to expedite the research and development activities,” says a Genzyme spokesperson, who did not elaborate on specifics. “Our Sanofi Pasteur Research group in Cambridge will help drive forward our efforts.”

Don’t worry, though. Vaccine development may be moving forward in Massachusetts, but we’re still not at high risk in the Commonwealth—cases of the virus in the United States have been in people who have traveled to affected countries.