UPDATED: GSK, NewLink ramp up production of Ebola drugs, even as they conduct trials

Ebola virus under an electron microscope--Courtesy of CDC

In an effort to contain the Ebola outbreak in Africa that has already killed more than 1,500 people, companies around the world, including GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK), are fast-tracking treatments and vaccines to try to get ahead of the disease spread. And in an effort to do that, companies are manufacturing doses, even as they are testing drugs, so that they will have a product ready to go ASAP.

GSK today said that it will use a £2.8 million ($4.6 million) grant from the U.K. government and the Wellcome Trust to both test a new Ebola vaccine, as well as to produce 10,000 doses so that it will have drugs ready for disbursement, assuming the trials are a success, Bloomberg reports.

A GSK spokesperson said the doses will be manufactured by Okairos, a biotechnology company acquired last year by GSK. Preclinical research by the NIH and Okairos has shown promising protection in chimpanzees exposed to Ebola without significant adverse effects.

GSK will not be turning for production to the vaccine plant in Texas it is building in collaboration with Texas A&M University. That is one of three Centers for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing being funded in part by the U.S. to produce drugs and vaccines in response to public health emergencies. GSK has said that facility will be used for pandemic influenza vaccines and construction on the $91 million facility has yet to begin. 

Like GSK, other companies with investigation drugs for Ebola also are ramping up production efforts as well. Bloomberg reports that Ames, IA-based NewLink Genetics ($NLNK) announced that it has signed up a contractor to help boost its supplies of Ebola vaccines. It has enough supply to start trials but the contractor will be able to help quickly add to its stockpile.

- here's the GSK release
- read the Bloomberg story

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