NewLink Ebola vaccine trial to start in Canada

Ebolavirus under an electron microscope--Courtesy of CDC

In Canada, which has no reported cases of Ebola, people are lining up to get in on a clinical trial for an Ebola vaccine.

That's right: The IWK Health Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia, is looking for 40 healthy people on whom to test the vaccine, CBC News reports, and there is "no shortage" of people who are eager to participate.

The vaccine, dubbed VSV-EBOV, was developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada at its National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It has delivered "promising results" in animal research, Reuters reports.

In October, NewLink Genetics ($NLNK), the owner of the vaccine started Phase I trials at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Maryland.

The vaccine uses a weakened vesicular stomatitis virus as a container for Ebola proteins to provoke an immune response when a vaccinated person is exposed to the real virus. "It's not a live Ebola vaccine, it's another virus … which has been manipulated to have it express one of the proteins of Ebola. So one can't get Ebola from the vaccine," said Dr. Scott Halperin, one of the three doctors overseeing the trial, as quoted by CBC News.

The results of the trial in Maryland should be available in December 2014, while the results of the Canadian trial are expected in early 2015.

These trials come at a time when GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) is conducting trials for its own experimental Ebola vaccine. According to Reuters, almost 200 people have received Glaxo's vaccine, dubbed cAd3-ZEBOV, in trials in the U.S., Britain, Switzerland and Mali, a West African country that recently reported its first Ebola cases.

Adrian Hill, who is leading the British arm of GSK's trial

So far, the safety data from the GSK trials are "very satisfactory," said Adrian Hill, a professor at the University of Oxford, who is leading the trial in Britain, as quoted by Reuters. "The response we have seen from people coming forward to take part has been remarkable," he said.

Like the NewLink candidate, the Glaxo vaccine can't infect the people being vaccinated. It uses a chimpanzee-derived virus that houses a single ebolavirus gene, which triggers an immune response but doesn't actually contain any virus material.

The WHO is fast-tracking Ebola vaccine development in the hopes of stopping the spread of the deadly virus as quickly as possible. Both vaccines are speeding through the regulatory process and are so far the only two candidates in human trials. Novavax ($NVAX) and Profectus Biosciences are also working on Ebola jabs, and a team at the University of Texas at Austin is developing a breathable vaccine.

- get more about the NewLink vaccine and trials from Reuters
- read the CBC News story
- read more about the GSK trials in Reuters

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