trial to start soon on GSK Ebola vaccine
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[August 11, 2014] By
LONDON (Reuters) - A clinical trial of an
experimental vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus is set to start
shortly, according to British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline, which is
co-developing the product with U.S. scientists.
The world's worst outbreak of Ebola has killed nearly 1,000 people
in West Africa and the disease could continue spreading for months,
increasing pressure on researchers to accelerate their work on new
There is no proven cure or vaccine to prevent infection with Ebola
and the scale of the current outbreak has prompted the World Health
Organisation to declare it an international health emergency.
GSK's experimental vaccine has already produced promising results in
animal studies involving primates and it is now due to enter initial
Phase I testing in humans, pending approval from the U.S. Food and
A company spokeswoman said on Sunday that the trial should get
underway "later this year", while GSK's partner the U.S. National
Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) said in a
statement on its website it would start "as early as fall 2014",
implying a potential September launch of testing.
Even if is fast-tracked, however, and emergency procedures are put
in place, the new vaccine could not be ready for widespread
deployment before 2015 - even assuming it works as well as hoped.
"It is right at the beginning of the development journey and still
has a very long way to go," the GSK official said, declining to be
drawn on a possible timeline for launch.
The investigational vaccine is based on a chimpanzee adenovirus into
which two Ebola genes have been inserted, which means it contains no
infectious Ebola virus material. Adenoviruses are best known for
causing the common cold.
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Once the vaccine enters a cell and delivers its genetic payload, the
two gene inserts produce a protein that generates an immune response
in the body - but the adenovirus carrying the genes does not
GSK acquired the vaccine after buying Swiss-based biotech company
Okairos for 250 million euros ($335 million) last year.
The U.S. NIAID - part of the National Institutes of Health - is also
supporting work on other early-stage Ebola vaccines, including one
from Johnson & Johnson's Crucell unit that should enter Phase I
clinical testing in late 2015 or early 2016.
The Crucell vaccine is designed to give additional protection
against Marburg, another severe and highly fatal disease caused by a
virus from the same family as Ebola. ($1 = 0.7458 Euros)
(Editing by Keiron Henderson)
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