Initial human testing of an investigational vaccine to prevent Ebola virus disease will begin next week by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health.
The early-stage trial will begin initial human testing of a vaccine co-developed by NIAID and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and will evaluate the experimental vaccine’s safety and ability to generate an immune system response in healthy adults. Testing will take place at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
The study is the first of several Phase 1 clinical trials that will examine the investigational NIAID/GSK Ebola vaccine and an experimental Ebola vaccine developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada and licensed to NewLink Genetics Corp. The others are to launch in the fall. These trials are conducted in healthy adults who are not infected with Ebola virus to determine if the vaccine is safe and induces an adequate immune response.
In parallel, NIH has partnered with a British-based international consortium that includes the Wellcome Trust and Britain’s Medical Research Council and Department for International Development to test the NIAID/GSK vaccine candidate among healthy volunteers in the United Kingdom and in the West African countries of Gambia (after approval from the relevant authorities) and Mali.
Additionally, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has initiated discussions with Ministry of Health officials in Nigeria about the prospects for conducting a Phase 1 safety study of the vaccine among healthy adults in that country.
The pace of human safety testing for experimental Ebola vaccines has been expedited in response to the ongoing Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 1,400 suspected and confirmed deaths from Ebola infection have been reported in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone since the outbreak was first reported in March 2014.
“There is an urgent need for a protective Ebola vaccine, and it is important to establish that a vaccine is safe and spurs the immune system to react in a way necessary to protect against infection,” said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. “The NIH is playing a key role in accelerating the development and testing of investigational Ebola vaccines.”
“Today we know the best way to prevent the spread of Ebola infection is through public health measures, including good infection control practices, isolation, contact tracing, quarantine, and provision of personal protective equipment,” added Dr. Fauci. “However, a vaccine will ultimately be an important tool in the prevention effort. The launch of Phase 1 Ebola vaccine studies is the first step in a long process.”