Ames, Iowa company has plans to test experimental Ebola vaccine

Ebola Drug Zmapp

As Ebola spreads throughout West Africa, in what the World Health Organization (WHO) is calling the deadliest Ebola outbreak in recorded history, a company based in Ames, Iowa, has an experimental vaccine ready for clinical trials.

NewLink Genetics, a biopharmaceutical company, is planning to work with as many as 100 healthy volunteers to test the vaccine, according to a report by ABC News.

The company’s Chief Financial Officer, Gordon Link, said they are unsure when the testing will take place.

“We’re getting a lot of assistance from a number of sources to accelerate this, so exactly how long it’s going to take is a little uncertain because people are greasing the paths as much as they can,” Link said.

Early in August, NewLink announced a contract with the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency that would bring an Ebola vaccine from the Public Health Agency of Canada a step closer to being tested on humans. As part of this agreement, $1 million in funding would be used for pre-clinical toxicology studies and manufacturing of clinical materials.

“There is an urgent need for a medical countermeasure against the deadly Ebola virus,” commented Dr. Charles Link, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of NewLink. “This Ebola vaccine has been 100% effective in preventing lethal infection when given to non-human primates before they are infected with the virus. The vaccine also acts rapidly enough to have significant efficacy even when given to animals that have recently received a typically lethal dose of Ebola virus.”

The Canadian government had plans to donate between 800 and 1,000 doses of their experimental Ebola vaccine developed by their Public Health Agency to the WHO, according to an agency spokesperson.

The vaccine, VSV-EBOV, has never been tested in humans but a spokesperson from the agency said it has “shown promise in animal research.”

There are other Ebola vaccinations in the development stages, one from the National Institutes of Health which is set to start early-stage testing in humans in the fall of 2014, reported ABC News.

The two Americans who were taken to Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital for treatment were given an experimental drug called ZMapp. CNN reported that the drug had never received clinical trials, but may have been approved for their use via the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s “compassionate use” regulation, which allows drugs to be administered even though they haven’t been tested.

Previous reports indicate that nearly 2,000 people have been infected with Ebola, and more than 1,000 have died.

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