Trials for Ebola vaccine co-developed by GSK being fast-tracked

Human trials of a potential Ebola vaccine being co-developed by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and GlaxoSmithKline are being fast-tracked in response to the deadly outbreak of the virus in West Africa that has killed more than 1,400 people.

The early-stage trial 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, Md.

The NIH also announced Thursday that it has partnered with a British-based international consortium to test the vaccine among healthy volunteers in the United Kingdom, Gambia and Mali. Those volunteers could begin receiving the vaccine as early as next month.

The vaccine was designed by Nancy Sullivan, chief of the Biodefense Research Section in the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ Vaccine Research Center. She worked in collaboration with researchers at the VRC, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and Okairos, a Swiss-Italian biotech company that GSK acquired last year.

It is vaccine candidate against the Zaire species of Ebola that is now ciruclating in West Africa. Intial research has shown the vaccine providing “promising protection in non-human primates exposed to Ebola without significant adverse effects,” NIH said in its news release.

GSK, which has its North American headquarters in Research Triangle Park, is the second company with a Triangle presence working on a potential treatment or vaccine for Ebola.

BioCryst Pharmaceuticals, a small drug developer in Durham, announcedearlier this month that it had received a $4.1 million award in federal research funds to develop a potential treatment for the deadly virus.

The funding, which came from National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, will be used to test BioCryst's experimental antiviral drug, which is known by the code BCX4430.