Scientists and doctors at Oxford University have announced today that they are starting the first safety trial of a new vaccine against Ebola being developed by the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson (Janssen). It is at an experimental phase at this stage.
The Oxford Vaccine Group, part of the University of Oxford Department of Paediatrics, has appealed for 72 healthy adult volunteers from the Oxfordshire area to be part of the trials. They need the volunteers by the end of January.
The development of the new vaccine has been fast tracked in response to the current outbreak of Ebola virus disease in West Africa, which has claimed over 6,000 lives. An effective vaccine would be an important step in controlling the spread of disease.
Volunteers for the trial, aged 18–50 years, are likely to come from the Thames Valley region. They will be asked to make a maximum of 12 visits to the Oxford Vaccine Group site on the city’s Churchill hospital site over a pea year.
The study involves a prime-boost vaccine regimen, in which patients are first given a prime to the immune system to stimulate an initial immune response, and then a boost intended to further enhance the level of the body’s immune response over time.
The vaccine regimen does not contain any replicating virus, so it is not possible to be infected with Ebola. People interested in volunteering can find out more here.
‘We aim to immunise all participants within a month,’ says Dr Matthew Snape of the Oxford Vaccine Group, who will lead the study team.
‘The main aim is to understand the safety profile of the vaccines. The devastating Ebola epidemic in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone continues to see hundreds of new cases each week and has placed huge burden on these countries’ infrastructures. While public health measures are currently still the best way to bring the outbreak under control, if we have a safe and effective vaccine it could begin to have an impact during next year. That is the goal that is seeing manufacturers, public health bodies and research regulators come together to accelerate the first clinical trials of new Ebola vaccines.’
The trial is being sponsored by Crucell Holland B.V., one of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies. This is the second safety trial of an Ebola vaccine to be carried out at the University of Oxford. Last September, a separate team in the Jenner Institute began a safety trial of a different Ebola vaccine developed by GSK/US National Institutes of Health (NIH). Led by Professor Adrian Hill, the trial vaccinated 60 healthy volunteers and initial results are expected this month.