UPDATE 2-Zika vaccine shows promise in mice, lifting maker Inovio
* Inovio plans human testing before end of 2016
* Shares in biotech up 7 percent in premarket trade
* At least 15 different groups working on Zika vaccines (Adds context on other vaccine developers)
Feb 17 (Reuters) - Hopes of developing a vaccine against Zika took a small step forward on Wednesday as Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc said its experimental shot had induced a robust and durable response in mice.
Shares in the U.S. biotech firm, which expects to test its product in humans before the end of the year, jumped 7 percent in premarket trading on the prospect of it developing a vaccine against the mosquito-borne disease.
At least 15 companies and academic groups are currently racing to develop Zika vaccines, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), spurred on by growing public concern over the virus sweeping across the Americas.
Zika, whose symptoms include mild fever and rash, has been linked to brain damage in thousands of babies in Brazil, although the connection is not yet proven.
There is no proven treatment or vaccine for the disease, a close cousin of the viruses that cause dengue, chikungunya and West Nile fever.
Inovio said in a statement that mice given its vaccine showed the development of antibodies and generated a response from T-cells, which play an important role in immunizing the body. Continued...