Merck, NewLink Ebola vaccine trial shows no serious side effects so far

Just days after GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and the NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) announced Phase I success for their investigative Ebola vaccine, Merck ($MRK) and NewLink Genetics ($NLNK) have their own positive news to report.

Ebolavirus under an electron microscope--Courtesy of CDC

The first people vaccinated with the candidate shot, known as VSV-ZEBOV, have shown no serious side effects to date, Swiss researchers said Tuesday, according to Reuters. After injection, each volunteer for the initial human safety tests at the University Hospitals of Geneva was kept under observation for 1.5 hours, and so far responses have shown just "limited cases of mild fever," the hospital said in a statement.

It's the first data from human testing of the Merck/Newlink jab, which 34 people have received so far across trials in the U.S., Canada, Germany and Gabon. Similar trials are expected to begin soon in Kenya, the news service reports.

Merck, which last month announced its agreement to buy the rights to NewLink's vaccine for $50 million, isn't the only Big Pharma player in the race to develop a vaccine to protect against the deadly virus. Late last week, GlaxoSmithKline and NIAID announced their own prospect had produced Ebola antibodies in 20 healthy volunteers, none of whom experienced serious side effects.

Merck peer Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) is scheduled to kick off a trial of its Ebola vaccine in January, Reuters notes, while a number of smaller players, including Novavax ($NVAX) and Profectus Biosciences, are working on vaccines, too.

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