It’s a really good news in the fight against Ebola. A vaccine has shown 100% success to prevent the disease during the outbreak in Guinea! The vaccine, which has been tested in a record time, can be the key to end the west African epidemics.
In an interim analysis published by The Lancet, the new vaccine has shown a 100% success to prevent the infection by the virus. The Phase III has been set up during the outbreak in west Africa to speed up the development of the drug.
The vaccine called rVSV-ZEBOV has been tried in 7,651 people at risk for infection, living in Guinea. The investigator have divided the population in two groups, one receiving the vaccine immediately after exposure to Ebola and one which receives it after a 21 days delay. The interim results were unquestionable, the immediate groups reports zero infections when 16 cases of Ebola has been reported in the second group. The result is statistically significant to tell that the vaccine may be 100% successful to prevent Ebola!
The rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine was initially engineered with support from the Public Health Agency of Canada and was licensed to NewLink Genetics Corporation. To make the vaccine, the virus was weakened by removing one of its genes, which was then replaced with a single Ebola virus gene that cannot cause disease by itself.
US-based Merck (MSD) bought into NewLink’s program in November, when the outbreak was at its height, and agreed to handle development, production and commercialization.
Thanks to sponsors from the World Health Organization and other global entities, the study has been able to show results in a record time and the vaccine may be soon available for people under infection risks. After a poorly managed global response to the Ebola outbreak last year, the outbreak resulted in nearly 27,746 cases in West Africa and more than 11,279 reported deaths. The WHO decided to take emergency measures to sponsored this trial because “nobody wanted to step into this role”, said WHO assistant director-general, Dr Marie-Paule Kieny.
In addition to the phase III trial in Guinea, other studies evaluating the rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine include the STRIVE (Sierra Leone Trial to Introduce a Vaccine against Ebola) phase III study and the PREVAIL (Partnership for Research on Ebola Vaccines in Liberia) phase II study.
Two other candidate vaccines are also currently under trials. The first one is investigated by British pharma giant GSK and its partner Emergent BioSolutions, while the second has been developed during a collaboration between J&J and the Danish biotech Bavarian Nordic. Both vaccines carry a part of the Ebola virus in order to stimulate the body’s immune system and are currently studied in phase II.
Merck’s successful results have certainly been like a cold shower for competitors. But the exceptional measures taken to speed up the development of a vaccine are really encouraging and we can only congratulate the authorities that led to this successful results!