Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline’s experimental vaccine for the deadly Ebola virus is scheduled to arrive in Liberia today for a massive clinical trial involving up to 30,000 people in West Africa.
London-based GSK said Friday the initial shipment contains 300 vials and will be tested in the Ebola hot zone in the coming weeks. The company employs about 5,000 people in the Triangle.
The vaccine testing, led by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, will involve up to 30,000 people, a third of whom will receive the GSK vaccine, the company said.
The GSK vaccine is currently being tested for safety in five small trials in the United States, Europe and Mali on about 200 healthy volunteers. Based on initial data from this small-scale trial, GSK has selected dosage levels for the African clinical trial.
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“If the candidate vaccine is able to protect these people, as we hope it will, it could significantly contribute to efforts to bring this epidemic under control and prevent future outbreaks,” Dr. Moncef Slaoui, GSK’s chairman for global vaccines, said in the announcement.
“It is important to remember that this vaccine is still in development,” Slaoui said, “and any potential future use in mass vaccination campaigns will depend on whether WHO, regulators and other stakeholders are satisfied that the vaccine candidate provides protection against Ebola without causing significant side effects and how quickly large quantities of vaccine can be made.”
The vaccine, cAd3-EBOZ, was developed by NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Okairos, an Italian biotech company acquired by GSK in 2013. It is designed to combat the Zaire strain of Ebola virus by delivering genetic material from chimpanzees.
GSK is also assisting the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with the development of drug trials in Seirra Leone and Guinea, where the Ebola outbreak has spread.