Chinese company intends to build plant to produce Ebola vax

A lot of companies, large and small, have jumped into a race to produce vaccines and treatments against the Ebola virus after an epidemic that began in 2014 killed 11,000 people in West Africa. Now a Chinese company says it will build a plant for production of a vaccine being tested by China's military.

Tianjin CanSino Biotechnology told Reuters that it will invest 2 billion yuan ($315.14 million) to build a plant in the northeast city of Tianjin to mass produce the vaccine. The facility is slated to be completed in 2017 or 2018, but a company official said it has no date for when production will begin.

The vaccine is being developed by Beijing Institute of Biotechnology and Tianjin CanSino Biotechnology and is based on the virus strain that caused the 2014 epidemic, not an older one like other vaccine candidates. In March, researchers reported positive results from the Phase I trial of the recombinant adenovirus type-5 vaccine after a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in Jiangsu Province, China, on 120 healthy adults, reporting 95% effectiveness in a low dose and 100% in a higher dose. They called for further trials in Africa to determine if the immune response is strong enough to fight off an actual Ebola infection.

Drugmakers have pressed ahead with trials and manufacturing plans even as new cases of Ebola have fallen significantly this year. In August, Merck's ($MRK) Ebola vaccine, developed in tandem with NewLink Genetics ($NLNK) and tested in a novel "ring study," protected 100% of patients from Ebola infection, according to interim results. Merck has said it is committed to following through with development and production of the jab. Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) Janssen unit is partnering with Bavarian Nordic on a two-dose, prime-boost regimen, and this week said they will test it in a safety and immunogenicity trial in Sierra Leone. They have said they have been able to scale up production of the regimen to more than 800,000 treatments and have the capacity to produce a total of 2 million regimens as needed.

- read the Reuters story