Feds cut Ebola vax funding

A prophylactic vaccine to prevent the onset of infection of the lethal Ebola virus may never come to fruition, an expert told the BBC, following a rash of Ebola cases in Uganda that killed at least 16 people.

The Pentagon cut off funding to two companies working on vaccines--Sarepta and Tekmira--due to financial constraints. Both companies had already begun human safety trials of their vaccines after seeing positive results in animal trials. By early September, the Department of Defense will make a decision whether to continue funding the research or terminate the projects. Despite an increased understanding of the nature of the disease, a vaccine depends mainly on the money.

"With the current funding, if it doesn't change, I would say there should be a vaccine in five to seven years," Gene Olinger, a virologist at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Infectious Disease at Fort Detrick in Maryland, told BBC News. "It could double or triple it if the funding goes away."

Other factors delaying a vaccine for the deadly disease include the relatively low number of outbreaks. Since the discovery of Ebola in 1976, just more than 2,200 people have been infected and outbreaks are nearly impossible to predict, BBC reports. This makes it unlikely for a large pharmaceutical company to jump in the game to produce a product for a niche market, Larry Zeitlin, president of Mapp Biopharmaceuticals, told the news outlet. A lack of funding, combined with disinterest from Big Pharma, worries experts that a vaccine will never be realized.

The Ebola virus wreaks havoc on the body; it attacks white blood cells and blood vessels, causing a rash, red eyes, severe abdominal pain and vomiting. The afflicted suffer a hemorrhagic fever where they bleed both internally and externally.

- more from BBC

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