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Ebola: Are Treatments, Vaccines on the Horizon?

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VSV-EBOV vaccine: The FDA in September gave NewLink Genetics Corp. permission to begin the first clinical trials to test the company’s Ebola vaccine, which was developed by Canada’s Public Health Agency. In a statement Oct. 22, the NIH said human testing was underway at its clinical center in Bethesda, MD, where adults get two doses. The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, MD, is testing the vaccine as a single dose, according to the NIH.

The vaccine uses a weakened animal virus to deliver Ebola proteins to the person, triggering an immune response. The vaccine can't cause a person to become infected with Ebola, the NIH said.

NewLink spokesman Brian Wiley said Oct. 2 that other trials will open soon around the globe.

Profectus BioSciences vaccine: The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, will provide about $5.8 million, as well as expertise and technical assistance, to further develop the vaccine created by the Baltimore company.

The vaccine uses a weakened version of a virus called vesicular stomatitis virus, or VSV, that does not make people sick. A molecule from the surface of the Ebola virus is inserted into the weakened VSV. After the vaccine is injected, the VSV carries the Ebola molecule to cells, which then begin to pump it out, triggering an immune response. A single dose of the Profectus BioSciences vaccine has been shown to protect macaque monkeys against Ebola and Marburg viruses, both of which cause hemorrhagic fever.

Inhaled vaccine: Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin’s College of Pharmacy have found an inhaled Ebola vaccine works well in monkeys. Their findings were published Nov. 1 and were being presented at the annual meeting of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

The survival rate in Ebola-infected monkeys was 100% 150 days after they received the inhaled vaccine, researchers said.

The next step is testing the inhaled vaccine in people, according to a university news release.

BCX4430: This antiviral drug is effective against more than 20 viruses, including Ebola. It was developed by BioCryst Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a company in Research Triangle Park, N.C. Under a 5-year contract awarded in September 2013 -- before the current Ebola outbreak -- the NIAID will provide up to $26.3 million to BioCryst to speed the development of BCX4430 for the treatment of Ebola, with the first safety trials expected to begin later this year or early next year, according to the NIH. In animal trials, the drug was 100% effective against Marburg, but it was somewhat less effective against Ebola, Jahrling said.

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