NewLink Ebola vaccine trial begins in U.S. while Glaxo takes its jab to Mali

Ebola virus under an electron microscope--Courtesy of CDC

The race is on to test an experimental Ebola vaccine as West Africa grapples with an out-of-control outbreak and the U.S. scrambles to rectify breaches in protocol after a patient with the virus died at a Dallas hospital and a healthcare worker tested positive for the infection.

A Canadian-made vaccine owned by NewLink Genetics ($NLNK) is moving into Phase I trials at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, MD. Meanwhile, GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) is now testing its investigational Ebola vaccine in Mali, a West African country that has remained untouched by the disease.

Both vaccines are flying through the regulatory process at lightning speed. Typically, it would take 6 to 11 months to move an experimental vaccine from preclinical testing into clinical trials. But the jabs are being fast-tracked by the World Health Organization in an effort to halt the spread of the disease as fast as possible.

Developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada, the latest Ebola vaccine to enter clinical trials--dubbed rVSV-ZEBOV--uses a weakened vesicular stomatitis virus as a vector to carry Ebola proteins intended to spur an immune response against exposure to the real virus. Canada said in a statement that is supplying 20 vials of the experimental for use in the trial.

The trial will test NewLink's vaccine on a small group of people to "assess its safety, determine the appropriate dosage and identify any side effects."

Earlier this month, NewLink said additional trials will soon be underway in Germany, Switzerland and in an unnamed African country that has not experienced any Ebola cases. A statement from the Public Health Agency of Canada indicated that data from the first Phase I trial in Maryland should be available in December 2014.

In Mali, GlaxoSmithKline has teamed up with the Center for Vaccine Development of Mali and the Ministry of Health of Mali to administer its cAd3-ZEBOV vaccine to a total of 40 healthcare workers. Glaxo has been working with the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on its jab, which uses a chimpanzee cold virus vector containing two ebolavirus gene segments that switch on a protein to activate an immune response in the body. A parallel trial in Gambia is expected to begin soon.

- get the statement from the Public Health Agency of Canada
- read more about GlaxoSmithKline's Mali trial

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