September 28, 2017

Thomas Jefferson University gets $30M contract to develop Ebola vaccine

Scientists also targeting three other hemorrhagic fever viruses

Research Diseases
Ebola Congo Frederick Murphy/CDC via AP

In this undated colorized transmission electron micrograph file image made available by the CDC shows an Ebola virus virion.

The National Institutes of Health recently awarded a five-year contract worth up to $30 million to Thomas Jefferson University to develop a vaccine that would protect against Ebola and other fever viruses.

The NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases initially granted $2.6 million to the university for the project, the university stated in a press release. The additional funding will be made available over the duration of the contract if all options are exercised, university officials said.

Matthias Schnell, director of the Jefferson Vaccine Center at the university's Sidney Kimmel Medical College and chairman of Jefferson's Department of Microbiology and Immunology, is set to lead the project.

A terrifying outbreak of the virus in 2014 claimed more than 11,000 lives in West Africa and affected a handful of people in Europe and the U.S.

In December 2016, The New York Times and other news organizations reported that a new Ebola vaccine tested on humans toward the end of the African epidemic was shown to give 100 percent protection against the virus.

But the university claims that if Schnell and other experts working on the project can successfully prepare and test their vaccine, it would be the first to protect against four hemorrhagic fever viruses. Along with Ebola, the vaccine would also target the Sudan, Marburg and Lassa fever virus.

“Our approach is to create a broad scope of coverage with a tetravalent vaccine — one that covers four of these deadly viral diseases," Schnell said in the release.

The vaccine would also protect against rabies.

Because the vaccine would be an inactivated – or killed – virus formulation, it cannot cause infection and has the potential to be safe for everyone, including pregnant women, young children and those with impaired or weakened immune systems, officials said.