Considering the acute situation in which West Africa finds itself, drug manufacturers now face the situation of having to start clinical trials on experimental drugs. As such, GlaxoSmithKline has announced that it will start the clinical trial for its vaccine against the Ebola virus.
The British drug manufacturer has been developing this vaccine together with U.S. scientists and because of the recent outbreak in western Africa, they now find themselves forced to hasten the process of development so that the disease doesn’t continue to spread uncontrolled. This increased pressure on researchers has indeed accelerated their work and has allowed that experimental serums also be administered to patients who had contracted the Ebola virus.
There is currently no proven vaccine or cure against the virus that has killed more than 1,000 people in the countries of West Africa where the outbreak is happening. According to epidemiologists, the disease could spread for months and because of its gravity, the World Health Organization had to declare an international state of health emergency.
In animal studies, the vaccine that GSK has been producing has shown promising results. If the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves the proceedings, the vaccine will soon enter Phase I of human testing. If all goes well, according to a company spokeswoman, the trial should commence later in 2014 (while the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases implied that it could happen as early as fall 2014).
In spite of the fast-tracked pace and the emergency situation in which the world finds itself, a vaccine released for widespread deployment couldn’t be ready before 2015. GSK officials haven’t drawn a concrete timeline for the vaccine launch, saying that the vaccine still finds itself at the beginning of its development. They added that it has a long way to go and that possible side effects need to be identified before the vaccine is feely offered to the general population.
The vaccine that GSK has developed is based on a chimpanzee adenovirus in which Ebola genes have been inserted so that the virus enters cells and delivers the Ebola genes so that the body can produce an immune response. What is most important is that the adenovirus that carries the Ebola genes does not replicate in human cells.
Additionally, the vaccine is designed to also offer additional protection against Marburg, a disease from the same family as Ebola, which is also highly contagious and fatal.