A made-in-Quebec vaccine against the zika virus is the first in Canada to get regulatory approval for testing in humans.

A team from Université Laval got the go-ahead from Health Canada and the U.S . Food and Drug Administration to begin Phase I clinical trials.

The 16-month trial period will test the vaccine on 10-15 volunteers here and another group at the University of Pennsylvania, which is a research partner.

"We have evidence that it's potent and safe in animals," said team leader Gary Kobinger of Université Laval.

"Now we'll collect data on the safety and immunogenicity in humans."

Immunogenicity is the ability of a substance — in this case, inactive bits of zika DNA — to cause an immune response.

gary kobinger

Gary Kobinger of Université Laval hopes to enter Phase II trials early next year. (CBC)

The zika virus, which is transmitted primarily by mosquitos, does not cause severe reaction is most people. However, it's suspected to cause miscarriages and birth defects like microcephaly in pregnant women.

The spread of the virus in tropical climes lead many athletes to avoid the Olympics in Brazil.

Kobinger expects the vaccine to have few if any side effects, as it resembles a flu vaccine that passed all trials successfully.

If all goes well, it should enter Phase II trials on a larger group of volunteers in early 2017.