Fed's Give Texas Researchers $2 Million To Find Vaccine For Zika Virus

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AUSTIN (KRLD) - The Department of Defense awarded a $2 million grant to the Texas Biomedical Research Institute in San Antonio to find a treatment for the Zika Virus.

The virus is a particular threat to pregnant women. The disease can be transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito and is associated with devastating birth defects, like microcephaly. No approved vaccine against the virus exists.

The Department of Defense is trying to speed up the process of finding an effective vaccine, particularly for pregnant women. As part of a program called the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program, the DOD is awarding Texas Biomedical Research Institute $2 million over the next three years to study a promising experimental Zika vaccine.

“If there’s something we can do to intervene for a pregnant woman and her fetus who are at risk, it’s certainly something we want to be looking at. I think most of the work being done now is focused on how we intervene during pregnancy since that is where the risk is,” explained Professor Jean Patterson, Ph.D., a Principal Investigator on the study. She describes a “sense of urgency” in the medical community to come up with a way to protect this vulnerable population.

The DOD supports research on many different tropical diseases and is particularly interested in Zika, as pregnant service members may get sent to areas of the world where Zika is endemic.