The Oxford Vaccine group began trials of a new Ebola vaccine on 1st January, with students targeted as participants in the study.
The group, part of the Oxford University Department of Paediatrics, aims to have the vaccine available for use in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone by mid-2015.
Professor Adrian Hill, Director of the Jenner Institute, the research partnership between the Oxford University and The Pirbright Institute, commented: “We are delighted that the trial of a new Ebola vaccine has progressed so rapidly and smoothly in Oxford. The vaccine does look rather promising. We are hugely grateful to all those who volunteers to be immunised, in such large numbers, so we could make the vaccine ready for use in West Africa”.
Dr Matthew Snape, leader of the study team, said: “The University of Oxford has been at the forefront of research to help contain the Ebola outbreak, and this Ebola vaccine study represents a great opportunity for Oxford students to make a real difference in the fight against this disease.”
The newest study is conducted on 72 volunteers aged between 18 and 50, and aims to have all participants immunised within a month.
They will then be asked to make a maximum of 12 visits to the Oxford Vaccine Group site at Churchill Hospital over the course of a year. There, doctors will monitor the immune response that the vaccine generates.
According to Dr Snape, “the main aim is to understand the safety profile of the vaccines”. The trial’s organisers have made clear that there is no risk of contracting the disease from the vaccine, since it contains no replicating virus.
As this is first trial of the vaccine on humans, the Institute cannot be entirely sure of the possible side effects. However, the Participant Information reveals that tests using similar vaccines are associated with “malaise (feeling generally unwell), myalgia (muscle pain/aches), fatigue (feeling tired), chills, headache, joint pain and/or fever, mostly of mild severity”.
Johnson & Johnson, whose subsidiary company Crucell Holland B.V. is sponsoring the trial, hopes to begin a larger Phase 2 trial within three months. In October 2014, Johnson & Johnson announced a commitment of up to $200 million to accelerate and expand production of an Ebola vaccine.
If participants remain in the study for the entire period, they will receive £540 in reimbursements for inconvenience, time and travel.
Snape added: “We are looking for healthy 18 to 50 year olds to take part in this study, and I would invite anyone interested to visit www.ebolavaccine.org.uk for more information and to see if they are eligible to take part.”