Ebola: New vaccine trial begins in Oxford, UK

JANUARY 6, 2015

Scientists at Oxford University in the UK on Tuesday began immunising healthy volunteers with a new Ebola vaccine. This follows a separate trial in the same city in September 2014.

This latest Ebola trial involves 72 adult volunteers aged 18-50.

Success in monkeys

Initial tests in monkeys showed that the vaccine, developed by Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson and Johnson, gave them complete protection against the Ebola virus.

The Oxford volunteers are the first humans to receive this vaccine.

The trial

The trial involves volunteers receiving an additional booster dose one or two months after the initial injection. The first dose is designed to prime the immune system with the second booster dose to enhance the immune response.

The two doses contain different components, but both include genes for a protein from the Zaire strain of the Ebola virus.

The trial organisers stress the vaccine cannot cause anyone to be infected with Ebola. The immune response the vaccine generates - both antibodies and T cells - will be measured over the course of a year.

Similar trails elsewhere

Similar small trials will also get underway in the US and three African countries unaffected by Ebola.

Johnson and Johnson said it hoped to begin a larger Phase 2 trial in Africa and Europe within three months and then to have the vaccine available for use in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone by the middle of 2015.

The company says it could have 2 million doses of the Ebola vaccine available this year.

Other Ebola vaccines

The Ebola outbreak of 2014 led to a huge acceleration in the pace of vaccine research globally.

In September, a separate team at the Jenner Institute in Oxford began a trial of an Ebola vaccine while GlaxoSmithKline and the National Institutes of Health in the US also developed their own vaccines.

Ebola vaccines are also being developed in Russia.

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