A worker fumigates a neighborhood with anti-mosquito fog to control...

A worker fumigates a neighborhood with anti-mosquito fog to control dengue fever in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia. The illness presents the most danger in Asia, Latin America and other areas with hot, humid climates.  Credit: AP/Binsar Bakkara

Codagenix Inc. has won a $4.4 million Defense Department award to develop a vaccine against dengue fever, which could pose a risk for soldiers and travelers in Asia, Latin America and elsewhere.

The Farmingdale-based biotechnology company, whose intranasal COVID-19 vaccine is undergoing clinical trials, received the three-year award for the dengue vaccine through the Joint Warfighter Medical Research Program.

Dengue, which is typically spread by Aedes mosquitos that have bitten humans or animals harboring the disease, sickens about a quarter of those infected. A much smaller minority who come down with a severe version of the disease may go into shock, vomit blood, bleed from the nose or gums and feel pain or tenderness in the belly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those with severe symptoms should seek medical treatment immediately, the agency advises.

Destinations in the Caribbean (including Puerto Rico), Central and South America, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands have reported outbreaks. In the United States, limited spread of dengue occurs sporadically in states with hot, humid climates like Hawaii and Florida. In July, for instance, Florida's Department of Health reported the year's first locally transmitted case of dengue fever in the Miami region.

In a statement, J. Robert Coleman, Codagenix co-founder and chief executive, said the funding will let the company push its vaccine candidate, CodaVax-DENV, toward clinical trials "and assess its potential as a safe and effective option for protecting our troops and high-risk populations across the globe."

U.S. troops seek to avoid mosquito-borne diseases with insect repellent applied to their skin and by wearing specially treated clothing.

There is no medicine to treat severe dengue. The sole vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Dengvaxia, made by Sanofi Pasteur Inc., only has clearance for children, aged 9-16, who had been previously infected by the disease. The vaccine's limitation to those who had earlier been infected was added after the company found that vaccinated children who had never been infected could come down with a more severe version of dengue.

In addition to Codagenix, several other life sciences companies are working to develop a vaccine to protect against dengue, whose four virus strains make creation of a single vaccine challenging.

Codagenix's software uses a computer algorithm to recode virus genomes and construct a live, but disabled, version that confers immunity.

Closely held Codagenix is funded by Adjuvant Capital, TopSpin Partners and Euclidean Capital.

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