Oxford University starts trial of new Ebola vaccine
7 January 2015
Oxford University has started a clinical trial of an experimental
preventative Ebola vaccine regimen. The Oxford Vaccine Group, part
of the University of Oxford Department of Paediatrics, aims to have
vaccinated 72 healthy adult volunteers by the end of January.
This is the second trial of an Ebola vaccine carried out in
Oxford, following one carried out by a separate team last September.
This vaccine is being developed by the Janssen Pharmaceutical
Companies of Johnson & Johnson (Janssen). The trial is being
sponsored by Crucell Holland B.V., one of the Janssen Pharmaceutical
Companies. The vaccine regimen, which was discovered in a
collaborative research program with the National Institutes of
Health (NIH), uses a prime-boost combination of two components that
are based on AdVac technology from Crucell Holland B.V., one of the
Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies, and the MVA-BN technology from
Bavarian Nordic, a biotechnology company based in Denmark.
In October 2014, Johnson & Johnson announced a commitment of up
to $200 million to accelerate and significantly expand production of
an Ebola vaccine program in development at its Janssen
Pharmaceutical Companies. The company says it is seeking to share
the financial risk of these vaccine and development clinical trial
costs by pursuing governmental and non-governmental funding sources.
The primary objective of the study is to determine the vaccine
regimen's safety profile. The study involves a prime-boost vaccine
regimen, in which patients are first given a prime to the immune
system to stimulate an initial immune response, and then a boost
intended to further enhance the level of the body's immune response
over time. It will also test in which order the two vaccine
components should be given in a prime-boost regime, and how far
The vaccine regimen does not contain any replicating virus, so it
is not possible to be infected with Ebola.
Pre-clinical studies conducted by the US National Institutes of
Health have demonstrated that the prime-boost
regimen, given two months apart, provides non-human primates with
complete protection from death due to the Kikwit Zaire strain of
Ebola, which is similar to the virus causing the current outbreak in
The immune responses that the vaccine generates — both antibodies
and T cells — will also be measured over a period of one year.
"We aim to immunise all participants within a month," says Dr
Matthew Snape of the Oxford Vaccine Group, who will lead the study
team. "The main aim is to understand the safety profile of the
vaccines. While public health measures are currently still the best
way to bring the outbreak under control, if we have a safe and
effective vaccine it could begin to have an impact later this year.
That is the goal that is seeing manufacturers, public health bodies
and research regulators come together to accelerate the first
clinical trials of new Ebola vaccines.'
Further studies of the vaccine regimen are being planned for the
United States and in Africa — a trial in Liberia
at the Médecins Sans Frontières
(MSF) ELWA 3 Ebola Management Centre in Monrovia started on 2
Johnson & Johnson also announced on 6 January 2015 that Janssen,
in partnership with Bavarian Nordic A/S, has produced more than
400,000 regimens of the prime-boost vaccine for use in large-scale
clinical trials by April 2015. A total of 2 million regimens will be
available through the course of 2015, with the ability to quickly
scale up to 5 million regimens, if required, over a 12 to 18-month
period. This increased projection is an update to Janssen’s previous
goal of producing more than 1 million regimens by the end of 2015,
with 250,000 regimens for broad application in clinical trials by
This is the second safety trial of an Ebola vaccine to be carried
out at the University of Oxford. In September, a separate Oxford
University team in the Jenner Institute began a safety trial of a
different Ebola vaccine developed by GSK/US National Institutes of
Health (NIH). Led by Professor Adrian Hill, the trial vaccinated 60
healthy volunteers and initial results are expected this month.
As well as the Janssen and GSK/NIH Ebola vaccines, Merck & Co has
recently bought the rights to a third Ebola vaccine, VSV-ZEBOV, being developed
by the US biotech company NewLink Genetics and produced by German
company IDT Biologika. This was first developed by Canadian
scientists and the Canadian government still owns the intellectual
property rights. Trials of the VSV-ZEBOV experimental vaccine have
begun in the US, Canada, Switzerland, Germany and Gabon and trials
are expected to begin soon in Kenya. Other vaccines are also in
development in Russia.
Dr Snape added, "The fact that there are at least three Ebola
vaccines entering these early safety trials is good news. We are not
playing first-past-the-post here. Having multiple vaccines
progressing through clinical trials increases the likelihood of
vaccine manufacturers having the capacity to meet production demands
should mass immunisation be required. The more vaccines and more
manufacturers there are working on this, the better."
People interested in volunteering can find out more at
Those who couldn’t take part in the earlier Jenner Institute
trial because recruitment was complete can be considered for this
new Oxford Vaccine Group trial of an Ebola vaccine.
Volunteers for the trial, aged 18–50 years, are likely to come
largely from the Oxfordshire region, and will be asked to make a
maximum of 12 visits to the Oxford Vaccine Group site on the city's
Churchill hospital site over a period of a year.