The National Institutes of Health has announced the first clinical trial of a vaccine to protect healthy people from infection by the Ebola virus, which is responsible for at least 1,552 deaths throughout West Africa.
NIH director Francis Collins on Thursday called the human safety trials, which are to start next week in Bethesda, Md., the latest in a series of the "extraordinary measures to accelerate the pace of vaccine clinical trials" for the public health emergency in Africa.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the effort to demonstrate the safety of a vaccine against the Zaire strain of Ebola circulating in West Africa will be "the first of many" trials aimed at supplying a vaccine to residents of countries where Ebola is endemic and to the health care workers traveling there to care for them.
Later clinical trials are to take place in the United Kingdom and, after approval from the relevant authorities, in the West African countries of Gambia and Mali. At least one other vaccine candidate, developed by the Canadian Health Agency and licensed to NewLink Genetics Corp., is also to be tested in planned trials
For the initial trial, NIAID and the Army's Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases are recruiting 20 volunteers between the ages of 18 and 50 to receive one of two doses of the investigational vaccine and to have their responses to the vaccine evaluated nine times over 48 weeks. Initial safety results would be available by the end of 2014, Fauci said.
The investigational vaccine, developed by pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, contains no infectious Ebola virus material.