In the ‘80s, Steve Jobs challenged us to ‘think different’ in the famous Apple commercial known as “Crazy Ones.”

Faced with the seriousness of the Zika outbreak, I would ask our political leaders in Washington - Congress and our regulatory officials - to embrace Jobs’ clarion call and ‘think different’ in their approach to the Zika crisis.


While first thoughts always go to the commonly accepted vaccine approach, and it is worth pursuing, it is important to not overlook more recent technological advances that may provide a faster, more versatile solution for not only the current Zika virus but also the next emerging viral threat. 

A review of history shows that vaccines have been successful in eradicating/controlling diseases such as polio, smallpox, and measles, but have been far less effective in combating more recent viral threats such as Influenza, SARS, MERS, and Ebola.

Our health officials suggest a vaccine for Zika could be as much as 12 months away - well into 2017.  The World Health Organization (WHO) has suggested the figure is more like 18 months.

We can all agree that a vaccine is a good long-term solution, but if a 12 to 18 month wait is the price, then should we not also be concurrently investigating and prioritizing new rapid targeted therapies that can attack the virus at the genetic level and stop the replication of the virus in the body; a medicine that can potentially be ready for FDA review within 6 months with the right resources?

Washington would be wise to consider ALL tools in the fight against Zika, not just a yearlong effort to find a vaccine.

While development of a vaccine is getting underway, the innovative research scientists in life sciences companies all across this country are already investigating new treatments to control the replication of viruses, like Zika, in the body.

Earlier this month, the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee invited Dr. Thomas Frieden, director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - the two leading agencies that are charged with addressing this Zika crisis - to testify before their committees.

The hearings were truly educational and touched on a number of critical issues and action items including mosquito-control programs, treating still water, and the importance of air conditioning because Zika is generally transmitted by mosquitoes in hot, humid, and usually, economically-challenged areas of the world. 

But on the medical technology solution, the fallback was one; a vaccine.

And this is where I challenge Congress and our executive branch decision makers to ‘think different.’

Congress should encourage the highly professional and hardworking scientists, technicians, and engineers at the FDA and the CDC to work with the ingenuity and innovation of private sector companies with alternative platforms to consider other approaches such as gene-silencing and antisense technologies that can attack the virus at the genetic level and stop viral replication.

There are a number of small biopharmaceutical companies developing these technologies that have the potential to move from design to therapy in as few as 6 months.

Gene silencing, for example, is an excellent option.  Gene silencing is a method of preventing the expression of a certain targeted gene within cells.  Today, because of innovative breakthroughs in the life sciences, technologies used to silence genes are being increasingly used to produce therapeutics to combat cancer and acute and chronic human diseases, including infectious diseases and neurodegenerative disorders.

Antisense therapy would also be a smart option in the fight against Zika.  It could be a rapid treatment for viral infections. When the genetic sequence of a particular gene is known to be the cause of a particular disease, it is possible today to synthesize a strand of nucleic acid that will bind to the messenger RNA produced by that gene (the code that allows the virus to replicate itself inside the human cell) and inactivate it, effectively turning that gene "off".

Our company, Lakewood-Amedex, for instance, generates targeted therapeutics that silence or regulate gene expression.  Specifically, we develop nanoRNAs that are designed to selectively bind to target gene sequence and prevent gene expression to prevent unwanted proteins, including viral proteins, from being produced in human cells. 

These nanoRNAs selectively attack the virus at the genetic level, are designed to shutdown replication, target conserved viral genes, and enable localized or systemic delivery.

As such, our technology could certainly be used in the fight against Zika.

The president has requested - and Congress is considering - a $1.9 billion supplemental budget request for funding research and development into combating Zika.  We in the private sector applaud that effort and ask our elected leaders to cover the waterfront of medical technology when addressing the Zika virus, and not just settle for the standard default remedy of a vaccine.

Parkinson is the CEO of Sarasota, Florida-based Lakewood-Amedex @ which is focused on reducing the threat posed by antibiotic-resistant bacteria.