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July 31, 2015

Merck: Experimental Ebola vaccine has '100 percent efficacy'

More than 11,000 people have died from current West African outbreak

An analysis of interim data in a study conducted for Merck's experimental Ebola vaccine showed a rate of 100 percent effectiveness, the company announced following a review by an independent panel.

The study, conducted in Guinea, encompassed more than 4,000 participants who received the vaccine and developed antibodies against the Ebola virus, which could become an important tool in preventing future infection, The Philadelphia Business Journal reports.

Led by researchers from the World Health Organization, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, the Health Ministry of Guinea and others, the ongoing study is collecting data on the success of the rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine, which was engineered with help from the Public Health Agency of Canada before it was licensed to Ames, Iowa-based NewLink Genetics Corp.

In late 2014, Merck negotiated a $50 million deal to license the vaccine candidate from NewLink genetics. The vaccine was created by removing a gene from the vesicular stomatitis virus and replacing it with a single gene from the Ebola virus that cannot induce the infection on its own.

Since the current Ebola outbreak began in late 2013, more than 11,000 people have died from the highly contagious virus in West Africa, where Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea have been most heavily affected, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The durability and significance of the immune response from the vaccine is not yet known based on current data, but the independent panel reviewing the study has recommended continuing the study, which Merck says will be joined by other studies to support worldwide regulatory submissions.

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