Ebola Workshop Highlights Collaborations to Develop, Test Vaccines
Experts from the Department of Defense and Health and Human Services jointly sponsored an Ebola vaccine workshop Dec. 12, in Rockville, Maryland.
The goal of the workshop, Immunology of Protection from Ebola Virus Infection, was for participants to discuss aspects of Ebola virus and vaccine immunology critical to guide future clinical, scientific and regulatory decision-making for Ebola vaccine development. HHS attendees represented the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Col. Stephen Thomas, deputy commander of Operations at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and team lead of the Ebola Response Management Team for the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, said the event brought together all of the key players in the current Ebola Virus Disease response effort.
"We are in the midst of an Ebola virus outbreak with global significance and national security relevance," said Thomas. "The outbreak provides an opportunity to assess the potential for effective preventive vaccine and drug therapies to efficiently proceed to licensure and deployment in an impactful way for global health."
Added Thomas, putting the current Ebola relief effort into context, "This pace of rapid vaccine development and testing was not thought to be feasible based on past outbreaks, which were somewhat limited in scope and duration."
Thomas added that while experts want to move quickly, they also agree that they must move guided by safety considerations and in true partnership with the governments and communities of the affected nations. Currently, there are no FDA-approved vaccines for Ebola. The WRAIR, located in Silver Spring, Maryland, began testing an experimental Ebola vaccine, called rVSV-ZEBOV (BPSC1001), on healthy human volunteers in October 2014 and NIH published promising initial results of another candidate vaccine in the New England Journal of Medicine in late November. DoD and HHS are also evaluating other vaccine candidates.
"We are moving from a data-limited to data-rich period of time, not only with regards to vaccines, but also the virology and pathogenesis and treatment of Ebola," explained Col. Nelson Michael, director of the U.S. Military HIV Research Program, whose program performed the first clinical study of an Ebola vaccine candidate in Africa in 2009 and is about to test two newer Ebola vaccine there in early 2015. "This is critically important information to inform the way ahead for Ebola vaccine development. Government agencies, the World Health Organization, pharmaceutical companies, academia, philanthropic organizations, non-governmental organizations, and nations are engaged in an unprecedented collaborative effort to develop vaccines that will be critical to the long-term control of this threat to global health and security."