Bavarian Nordic has started a Phase I clinical trial to assess its vaccine candidate MVA-BN WEV for prophylaxis against equine encephalitis virus.

The equine encephalitis virus is transmitted via mosquitos, birds and certain mammals. Eastern, Venezuelan and Western equine encephalitis viruses can cause flu-like symptoms, central nervous disorders and death.

This year, more than 30 cases have been reported in the US, including nine deaths. The virus currently lacks approved vaccines.

During its development programme, Bavarian Nordic intends to develop a vaccine against the three separate strains of the virus.

The newly initiated Phase I trial is intended to assess the safety, tolerability and immunogenicity of three different doses of MVA-BN WEV in 45 healthy volunteers.

Top-line data from the trial is expected to be reported next year.

The development programme is currently supported by the US Department of Defense (Dod) Joint Project Manager for Chemical, Biological, Radiation, and Nuclear Medical under a multi-year agreement worth up to $36m.

Positive safety and immunogenicity data from the Phase I trial is expected to fetch additional funds to support preclinical, clinical development and manufacturing for the US market.

Bavarian Nordic president and CEO Paul Chaplin said: “The prevalence of Eastern equine encephalitis, which is currently on the rise in the US, highlights the importance of a vaccine to help fight these diseases.

“Again, we are leveraging the unique properties of our MVA-BN platform technology to address unmet medical needs, and we look forward to continuing our work with DOD on this important programme.”

In February, the company launched a Phase I/IIa trial of its MVA-BN HPV prime-boost vaccine regimen to treat chronic infections with high-risk subtypes of the human papillomavirus (HPV).