Amongst the flurry of efforts to combat the West African Ebola outbreak, Johnson & Johnson is trying its hand at developing a vaccine
Johnson & Johnson can be counted amongst the ranks of yet another pharmaceutical company that has joined the race to develop an Ebola vaccine.
Thus far, the most advanced vaccine candidate is Glaxo Smith Kline’s, which is the first candidate to have entered phase I clinical trials, having already been tested on two women in the US. Amongst other advanced candidates include the NewLink Genetics Ebola vaccine, which is set to commence human trials later this year.
Human clinical trials for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine candidate were originally set to commence in late 2015 or early 2016, but now, they have been fast-tracked to commence in early 2015.
Johnson & Johnson originally planned to develop a vaccine that would protect against two strains of the Ebola virus: the Zaire and Sudan strains, as well as another similar virus called Marburg disease. However, due to the urgency and severity of the current West African outbreak involving the Ebola Zaire virus, Johnson and Johnson has focused the development of its vaccine on the Zaire strain in particular.
Johnson & Johnson will work with the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) in planning the logistics of their upcoming clinical trials. GSK and NewLink Genetics are also working with the NIH on clinical trials for their vaccine candidates.
Johnson & Johnson has said that the exact logistics of their upcoming phase I trials have not yet been confirmed, but that they will involve healthy volunteers to test the safety of the vaccine and see if it elicits an immune response against the virus. What makes Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine candidate different to others is that it is administered in two doses, which were given two months apart in pre-clinical trials on primates. The first dose of the vaccine elicits an immune response against the virus, whilst the second dose acts as a booster to maintain immunological memory B cells against the virus.
The speed at which experimental Ebola vaccine candidates are entering human trials is unprecedented. Normally, vaccine candidates undergo extensive pre-clinical trials and trial planning before being tested on humans, but in light of the current outbreak, the WHO has said that it is ethical to use experimental treatments on humans. This has spurred on the race toward developing the first approved Ebola vaccine.
Read more about it here: Ebola outbreak: Johnson & Johnson get OK to fast-track vaccine trials