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J&J fast-tracks Ebola vaccine

Human clinical trials set to begin in early 2015
Ebola in West Africa / WHO / Stephane Saporito

Ebola outbreak in West Africa (WHO | Stephane Saporito)

Johnson & Johnson has joined the list of pharma companies trying to stem the outbreak of Ebola virus in West Africa by fast-tracking the development of a vaccine.

The US-based healthcare giant's subsidiary Crucell – based in the Netherlands – is collaborating with the Danish biotech Bavarian Nordic on a combination vaccine regimen with clinical trials in humans planned for early 2015.

So far the regimen – which combines Crucell's AdVac technology and Bavarian Nordi's MVA-BN technology – has demonstrated success in macaques exposed to a highly virulent wildtype Zaire strain of Ebola, offering complete protection against disease and death.

The decision to fast-track the vaccin'es development comes shortly after GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) said it was accelerating the development of its own Ebola virus vaccine, with testing in healthy human volunteers planned over the next few weeks.

As with GSK's vaccine plan, J&J is receiving funding and support from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of National Institutes of Health (NIH), which has taken a proactive response to the challenge of Ebola.

The outbreak in West Africa has already claimed the lives of more 1,900 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, while Nigeria and Senegal have also confirmed cases.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has led the global response, although support has also come from pharma companies.

This includes Mapp Pharmacueticals, which provided doses of its experimental Ebola antibody ZMapp for free to several health workers affected by the virus. The drug has so far helped three people to recovery, including British nurse William Pooley, although stocks are now thought to be depleted.

J&J is also planning to provide more direct support and will “broadly collaborate with its partners in global health to deliver immediate relief aid to address the current Ebola outbreak”.

This includes providing support to the non-profit organization Direct Relief International to help transport infection prevention products to Liberia and Sierra Leone.

J&J also intends to carry out “an intensive review of known pathways in Ebola pathophysiology” to see if any existing medicines can be used to help people with the disease.

Dr Johan Van Hoof, managing director, Crucell, said: “In light of the current emergency in West Africa and given the evident, huge unmet medical need, we are stepping up our efforts and accelerating the Ebola programme currently in pre-clinical development,

“We recognise the urgency of the situation and the need to collaborate with multiple partners to develop treatment and preventive solutions for Ebola.”

Article by
Thomas Meek

4th September 2014

From: Research, Healthcare

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