A zoonotic disease (or zoonosis) is an infectious disease that is transmissible from animals to humans. Zoonoses may be caused by different types of pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites. Examples of zoonoses are Salmonellosis, Anthrax, Avian Influenza, Ebola, Rift Valley Fever, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and most recently
Scientists estimate that more than 60% of human infectious diseases are originating from animals. As emerging infectious diseases are occurring at an increasing frequency in Europe and other regions of the world, as a consequence of several driving factors (e.g. climate change, travel, trade) it becomes crucial to develop new strategies to prevent very rapidly the spread of infectious diseases both in the animal and in the human populations. In addition to well-proven public health measures, such as implementation of quarantine, travel restrictions, physical distancing and restrictions of large gatherings, the rapid development of medical intervention tools for animals and humans (for example for ring vaccination…) is also required to limit the disease spread.
Such a rapid development of animal and human medicine implies to accelerate all phases of the current chain of processes leading to efficient intervention strategies, without downgrading the quality of the work carried out to:
i) Identify the pathogen responsible of the disease
ii) Select the best available therapeutics for animals and humans (efficiency against the disease, possibility to produce large quantities under short timelines). The considered therapeutics are typically vaccines (e.g. non-infectious fragment of pathogens) for animals or humans, and neutralizing antibodies for humans…
iii) Test efficacy and safety of the therapeutics
iv) Produce the therapeutics
v) Obtain approval from regulatory agencies based on safety and efficacy results
To date, the average time to manufacture, in large amounts, a new therapeutic (vaccine or neutralizing antibody) against a known pandemic disease is of about 6 months. For newly emerging threats without a licensed therapeutic, such as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), the time required to develop and produce a safe and effective therapeutic is of at least a year and usually unknown as it depends on the nature of the infectious threat and on the current level of research and scientific knowledge for that threat.
The IMI (Innovative Medicines Initiative) funded the Zoonoses Anticipation and Preparedness Initiative (ZAPI) Project to develop a methodology enabling swift responses to major new infectious disease threats in Europe and throughout the world, by producing targeted therapeutics (vaccines for animals and neutralizing antibodies for Humans) within 4 to 6 months after a disease outbreak will occur.
The ZAPI program is the first true “One Health” project within the scope of IMI. It gathers world public and private experts from 5 countries, committed towards this common goal, in both animal health and human health fields. The consortium is headed by an EFPIA member, guaranteeing the practical relevance of the research conducted for industrial needs and its future use by industry. The ZAPI project benefits from the Public-Private Partnership model which contributes to improve mutual knowledge transfer and creates a high level of trust between partners.
In order to enable swift responses to major new infectious disease threats, the ZAPI project develops a general methodology that can be used for the rapid characterization of pathogens and the design and surge production of therapeutics (vaccines for animals and neutralizing antibodies for Humans) against emerging pathogens, in particular viruses. Moreover, the ZAPI project will propose to regulatory authorities and policy makers, recommendations in order to approve, in a sanitary emergency context, safe and efficient therapeutics developed using this methodology. To achieve these objectives, ZAPI works on representative models of currently emerging infectious pathogens (Bunyaviruses, i.e. Rift Valley Fever Virus (RVFV) and Schmallenberg Virus (SBV), and coronaviruses, i.e. Middle East
Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus MERS-CoV (betacoronavirus)), to demonstrate the applicability of this approach toward future emerging viruses.
“The objective is to demonstrate that we can deliver on these platforms, using three different prototype models of diseases that occurred in the recent past and which are zoonotic in nature.” The viruses that [have been] used as models are Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV); Schmallenberg virus; and Rift Valley Fever virus’. IMI ZAPI Interview
Six years later, the ZAPI project has made great strides in vaccine and antibody design, and new approaches for achieving the “surge manufacturing capacity” objective.
The Final Stakeholders Global Meeting will present an overview of the main findings and key learnings from the ZAPI project partnership’s experience for improving our One Health preparedness status for facing effectively future pandemics.