Researchers at the National Institutes of Health are accelerating human clinical trials for what scientists hope is a promising new vaccine to combat the deadly Ebola virus. Phase 1 of the clinical trials, which were previously not expected to begin until the end of September, will start early next month in response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Fauci said researchers hoped to finish Phase 1 by the end of November rather than January 2015, as originally planned. “We’re dealing with an urgent situation,” Fauci said. “We want to respond as safely as we can but also as quickly as we can.”

The NIH’s Vaccine Research Center has been working on the vaccine for years with Okairos, a Swiss-Italian biopharmaceutical company now owned by British drug maker GlaxoSmithKline. The experimental vaccine has shown promising results in nonhuman primates, Fauci said. The vaccine will be tested on 20 healthy adults at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Md.

Known as a chimpanzee adenovirus vector vaccine, the experimental vaccine contains no infectious Ebola virus material. According to Fauci, the chimpanzee adenovirus is a “dead virus,” meaning it cannot replicate once it enters the body. The dead virus is intended to trigger the body to make antibodies, which would reproduce if a person was exposed to Ebola. Researchers will compare the human immune response to the vaccine to previous tests on monkeys to determine whether the vaccine is effective.
It remained unclear when the vaccine would be ready, but Fauci said it may be available sometime in 2015, depending on Food and Drug Administration approval.

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