News Feature | November 3, 2014

3rd Potential Ebola Vaccine To Enter Human Trials

By Estel Grace Masangkay

An Ebola vaccine candidate developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada is set to enter human clinical trials, The Guardian reports.

Named rVSV-EBOV, the vaccine uses a weakened version of live vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) often used in the production of other vaccines. VSV is a pathogen found in livestock that induces a strong immune response. It is being considered in the development of both general prevention and post-exposure prophylaxis. In rVSV-EBOV, VSV is modified to carry an outer protein of the Zaire Ebola virus species to generate immune response to the infection.

The Wellcome Trust has pledged £3.1 million (USD $5 million) to enable several global partners, overseen by the World Health Organization, to collect safety data for the vaccine. The funds will be used to gain insight into the human response to the vaccine and establish the optimal dose for general prevention of the infection.

Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, Assistant Director-General for Health Systems and Innovation at WHO, says, “This grant comes at a critical time as we try to accelerate the process of getting safe and effective vaccines developed and implemented with record-breaking speed.”

The Canadian government has donated 800 vials for use in the safety trials, which will involve 335 volunteers. The study will launch with the vaccination of the first 20 participants in Germany, followed by a hundred individuals, each in Gabon and Kenya, and finally 115 in Switzerland.

Professor Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust, said, “Communities in west Africa continue to suffer from the crisis with remarkable fortitude and finally the rich world has committed significant finance and resources to support critical public health measures, and progress in the search for treatments is encouraging. Now, accelerated vaccine development is being properly prioritized too, so we have the best possible chance of a safe and effective vaccine in time to transform our prospects of containing Ebola.”

The vaccine follows two other candidates from pharma companies GlaxoSmithKline and Johnson & Johnson. GSK has partnered with the NIH and is investigating its Ebola vaccine candidate in a Phase 1 trial, while J&J’s subsidiary Janssen is preparing to conduct a safety and immunogenicity trial for its investigational vaccine against Ebola.