Microbix Biosystems, an innovator of biological products and technologies, announced plans to develop and introduce new products for use in diagnostic tests and vaccine research in response to the emergent Zika virus, which is spreading throughout the Americas and is being characterized as a crisis by health authorities.

The Zika virus is a member of the flavivirus family, which includes the mosquito-borne Dengue Fever virus. Microbix is the world’s leading supplier of Dengue antigen to diagnostics manufacturers and the Company recently added three new strains of this virus to its product line. Currently, healthcare workers are testing for both viruses in persons suspected of being infected.

Using its established development platform and unique expertise in virology, Microbix intends to develop and launch a range of products to help combat the Zika virus, including native molecular controls, live and inactivated forms of the antigen, and related biological materials.

These products will aid in the development of assays with high specificity and low cross-reactivity to related tropical diseases, including Dengue, that are spreading into formerly temperate climates as the geographic range of host mosquitos expands.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports the Zika virus is spreading rapidly in the Americas, and it is being linked to babies born with abnormally small heads and other possible birth defects.

Approximately one in 200 babies born in Brazil have been affected since the onset of the crisis in late 2015. The Director General of the WHO has declared an international public health emergency as the mosquito-borne Zika virus has gone from being "a mild threat to one of alarming proportions."

Vaughn Embro-Pantalony, Microbix’ CEO and President commented, "The close relationship between Zika and Dengue viruses places Microbix in a unique position to help meet the challenges of this emerging health threat.

"Our expertise in growing Dengue virus at large scale, together with our processes for delivering diagnostic products for Dengue, will allow us to efficiently produce these new Zika virus products once their development is complete. We believe our products will be pivotal for the accurate diagnosis of this infection, which will help health authorities more effectively respond to this crisis, and will benefit patients as well as those at risk."

Microbix Biosystems specializes in the research and development of biological solutions, including products for human health applications in the vaccine, therapeutic and diagnostic markets, as well as animal reproductive markets worldwide.