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J&J to produce one million doses of Ebola vaccine

Commits $200m to speed up research

Ebola West Africa
Ebola outbreak in West Africa (WHO | Stephane Saporito)

Johnson & Johnson intends to produce more than one million doses of an investigational Ebola vaccine in 2015 as it accelerates its research in the area.

The US-based healthcare company has earmarked up to $200m to expand its Ebola vaccine programme and is planning to begin clinical trials in humans by May 2015. These clinical trials will make use of 250,000 of the planned doses.

“Our goal to produce more than a million vaccines in the next few months is within reach,” says Dr Paul Stoffels, chief scientific officer of J&J. “Ebola is a significant and growing threat to the people of West Africa and it has the potential to impact people around the world.”

J&J announced back in September that it was fast-tracking the development of an Ebola vaccine in response to the outbreak in West Africa, which has reached epidemic levels and led to the deaths of more than 4,500 people.

The vaccine is being developed by J&J's Netherlands-based subsidiary Crucell in partnership with the Danish biotech Bavarian Nordic and the US National Institutes of Health (NIH).

It combines Crucell's AdVac technology and Bavarian Nordi's MVA-BN technology and has demonstrated effectiveness in macaque monkeys exposed to a highly virulent wildtype Zaire strain of Ebola, with human testing to begin in early January.

J&J's Dr Johan Van Hoof, who heads infectious diseases and vaccines, explained that, during clinical trials, the vaccine “has shown complete protection against Ebola”.

Alex Gorsky johnson and johnson
J&J's CEO Alex Gorsky says the company has "an important responsibility as a leading global healthcare company to do all we can to address this urgent unmet medical need"

There are several other companies aiming to bring an Ebola vaccine to market, including GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). Last week GSK announced development was progressing at an “unprecedented rate” and that first phase I safety trials involving humans were underway in the US, the UK and Mali.

NewLink Genetics, another company with a vaccine in development, has said its product is expected to start clinical trials in October.

Beyond vaccines healthcare stakeholders are also trying to encourage the development of treatments for Ebola, for which there is no approved medicine.

Earlier this week the European Medicines Agency (EMA) called for drug developers to apply for 'orphan drug' designation to speed up the review process for potential Ebola medicines.

Article by
Thomas Meek

22nd October 2014

From: Research, Healthcare

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