Swiss trial of Merck/NewLink Ebola vaccine resumes at lower dose

The previously suspended Swiss trial of Merck ($MRK) and NewLink's ($NLNK) experimental Ebola vaccine is back on, but this time at a lower dose.

Aerial view of the University Hospitals of Geneva--Courtesy of Julien Gregorio

The study--with 115 total participants--was conducted by the University Hospitals of Geneva (HUG). It paused on Dec. 11, after 10 of 59 volunteers who had received the injection complained of mild to moderate joint pain within 10 to 15 days following vaccination. Now, the 56 remaining volunteers will receive less of the vaccine or a placebo shot, a change researchers think will solve the problem.

The original dose was up to 50 million vaccine particles, and for the rest of the trial, HUG will use a dose of 300,000 vaccine particles. "[The lower dose] should be better tolerated by volunteers and will hopefully trigger the production of enough antibodies," HUG said in a statement. The trial will conclude at the end of the month.

NewLink developed the vaccine and started trials in Canada and the U.S. before teaming up with Merck in an exclusive licensing agreement to research, develop, manufacture and distribute NewLink's candidate.

The vaccine, dubbed rVSV-EBOV, is also being tested in Canada, Gabon, Germany and the United States. Final results are expected in March.

GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) conducted a trial of its own Ebola prospect in Switzerland, at the University of Lausanne Hospital, Reuters says. The hospital reported that it has proved "satisfactory." Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) Janssen subsidiary is collaborating with Bavarian Nordic on another Ebola jab whose trials started this week, and other companies, including Novavax ($NVAX) and Profectus Biosciences, are working on their own candidates.

- read the University Hospitals of Geneva release
- get more from Reuters

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