WHO Projects Ebola Vaccine Will Be Ready for 2015

Davy James, Associate Editor
Published Online: Monday, August 11, 2014
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Several treatments for hemorrhagic fever are in different stages of development.
As mobilization efforts for the development of an Ebola treatment continue in response to the outbreak in West Africa, the World Health Organization (WHO) is confident that a vaccine for the virus will be ready for public use at some point in 2015.

With clinical trials ongoing for one Ebola treatment and set to begin for another, a WHO representative told French radio broadcaster RFI that a vaccine within the next year is a realistic goal. The latest figures on the crisis released by WHO place the estimated death toll at nearly 1000, with more than 1700 confirmed and suspected cases.

“Since this is an emergency, we can put emergency procedures in place...so that we can have a vaccine available by 2015,” said Jean-Marie Okwo Bele, WHO’s head of immunization and vaccines, in a report on The Independent.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is projected to launch clinical trials on an experimental Ebola treatment this year through a collaboration with the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) Vaccine Research Center. The treatment was acquired by GSK when it purchased Okairos last year.

“We have evaluated this vaccine candidate in preclinical studies and we are now discussing with regulators advancing it to a phase I clinical trial program later this year,” read a statement on the GSK website. “Clinical development for a new vaccine is a long, complex process, often lasting 10 or more years. It is difficult to accelerate this process because of the many important steps that a candidate vaccine must go through to ensure that it is safe and effective.”
 
The NIH said the trial will begin enrolling patients in September.
 
“If the vaccine is found to be safe, the trial will move to the next phase to test whether the vaccine produces protective antibodies to fight the virus,” the NIH said in a press release. “This testing could begin as early as January. Optimistically, the vaccine could be available about a year after that for people at highest risk for exposure to Ebola, such as health care workers.”
 
Last week, the FDA changed the clinical hold on Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corp’s experimental vaccine, TKM-Ebola, to a partial hold. The drug was in a phase I clinical trial before the study was halted on July 3, 2014. Upgrading the hold allows for the potential use of TKM-Ebola to treat patients infected with the virus, the FDA said.

WHO is also set to conduct an ethical meeting this week to discuss the use of ZMapp, an experimental drug that showed promising results after being administered in Ebola-stricken American relief workers Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol. 

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