Hawaii Biotech and University of Hawaii making progress on Ebola vaccine

Hawaii Biotech

Hawaii Biotech and the University of Hawaii’s John A. Burns School of Medicine may soon begin human trials on a vaccine to prevent Ebola.

“Our research is going well, this is why we forged this partnership for development with Hawaii Biotech. We have defined a candidate for our Ebola virus vaccine that has shown protection in mouse, guinea pig and non-human primate models of Ebola virus infection,” said Axel Lehrer, a professor from the Department of Tropical Medicine at UH.

The project has conducted all tests with live samples of the virus in labs on the U.S. mainland which are designed to deal with such infectious materials.

Recent attention generated by the Ebola epidemic in Africa last year has been helpful garnering interest in Lehrer’s 12-year-long project.

“The outbreak has also changed our view of the disease and its epidemic potential which we believe has changed the general prospects for products actually making it to market,” Lehrer said. He added that this information helps gain the interest of research partners and necessary funding, which help advance the research.

But there were some practical lessons learned as well.

“The outbreak has further helped to clarify the potential of recombinant subunit vaccines as a boost partner to live vectored approaches,” Lehrer said.

The vaccination he is developing would have the potential to act as a booster for other Ebola vaccinations, regardless of their design or manufacturer.

“This would help tremendously in boosting vaccine protection in first-responders and other healthcare workers that have previously received a baseline vaccination and are getting ready to respond to an outbreak,” Lehrer said.

The method that is being used in the research would allow for high levels of vaccine production using very narrowly targeted antigens.

“Our lead formulation utilizes low doses of three Ebola virus subunit proteins and a modern, clinical stage adjuvant,” explained Lehrer.

This formulation could do more than just treat Ebola. Researchers are developing a trivalent Filovirus vaccine to also induce protection against Sudan and Marburg virus. Doing so will be the most effective tool in fighting and preventing these outbreaks, Lehrer said.

Researchers are optimistic that FDA approval may happen before the end of the decade.