The University of Maryland School of Medicine launched human trials of an experimental Ebola vaccine in Mali this week, university officials announced Thursday.
Three people – all Malian health care workers – have been vaccinated so far. In the next few weeks, 37 more health care workers will receive the vaccine, which was developed at the Vaccine Research Center of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda.
The clinical trial is being launched by researchers in the Center for Vaccine Development in UM’s medical school, along with partner institutions in Mali.
“This research will give us crucial information about whether the vaccine is safe, well tolerated and capable of stimulating adequate immune responses in the highest-priority target population: health care workers in West Africa,” said Myron Levine, director of the Center for Vaccine Development, in a statement.
“If it works, in the foreseeable future it could help alter the dynamic of this epidemic by interrupting transmission to health care and other exposed front-line workers,” he said.
The vaccine is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline Biologics, which would be able to produce at least 10,000 additional doses before the clinical trials are even complete. The vaccine consists of a modified adenovirus, which does not cause illness in humans but produces a single attachment protein of the Ebola virus.
The vaccine was shown to produce the desired immune response in non-human primates without significant side effects, and researchers hope a similar response will occur in humans.
University officials said it would normally take up to 11 months to obtain all the required approvals necessary for transitioning a vaccine from animal research to clinical trials in a developing country.
But, thanks to the efforts of a consortium of institutes and companies assembled at the request of the World Health Organization, it only took two months, officials said.
“This is just the critical first step in a series of additional clinical trials that will have to be carried out to fully evaluate the promising vaccine,” Samba Sow, director general of the Center for Vaccine Development of Mali, the sister organization of the CVD at the University of Maryland, said a statement.
“However, if it is eventually shown to work and if this information can be generated fast enough, it could become a public health tool to bring the current, and future, Ebola virus disease epidemics under control,” Sow said.