DOD awards NewLink Genetics $2.8M to develop filovirus jab

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of filamentous Ebola virus particles budding from a chronically infected VERO E6 cell
Colorized scanning electron micrograph of filamentous Ebola virus particles (blue) budding from a chronically infected VERO E6 cell (yellow-green)--Courtesy of NIAID CC BY 2.0

NewLink Genetics ($NLNK) bagged a $2.8 million contract from the Defense Department’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) to develop a multivalent filovirus vaccine, broadening its existing work against the Ebola virus. Six months ago, the Ames, IA, company picked up more than $26 million in government funding to advance its Ebola vaccine on which it is collaborating with Merck ($MRK).

Under the contract, NewLink will continue to work with Merck on a multivalent vaccine that will target filovirus species including Marburg and the Sudan and Zaire Ebolavirus strains, the company said in a statement. The $2.8 million base contract also includes potential future options totaling $6.3 million. In September, the company received $8.1 million from DTRA and $18 million from BARDA to develop its Ebola jab.

"Preclinical and clinical studies with the [Ebola] candidate suggest that the inclusion of other filoviruses in this vaccine platform can be used to develop multiple vaccines or a single multivalent formula which is our ultimate goal," said Dr. Charles Link, NewLink CEO and chief scientific officer, in the statement.

The standalone Ebola jab and multivalent vaccine are based on a recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus platform. NewLink licensed the research, development and manufacturing of the Ebola vaccine to Merck in 2014. It is the most advanced candidate in the Ebola vaccine race, having been tested using a novel “ring” study structure for Phase III data. Merck plans to submit it for regulatory approval next year. Meanwhile, the pharma has filed an application with the World Health Organization, which, if approved, will make the experimental vaccine available for use in emergency situations before it is licensed.

Several companies are working on Ebola vaccines, including GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and a tandem between Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) and Bavarian Nordic. The latter two are working on the Ebola vaccine as part of an ongoing effort to develop vaccines against all filoviruses.

- here's the statement

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Image courtesy of NIAID CC BY 2.0

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