Johnson & Johnson Lands $115 Million to Speed Up Development of Ebola Vaccine

Published: Jan 19, 2015

Johnson & Johnson Lands $115 Million to Speed Up Development of Ebola Vaccine
January 16, 2015
By Jessica Wilson, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

Johnson & Johnson today announced the formation of consortium with global research institutions, non-governmental organizations and Janssen Pharmaceuticals to accelerate the development of its Ebola vaccine, which is currently being tested in Phase I clinical trials. Europe’s Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) plans to award these projects grants worth more than €100 million ($115 million) to facilitate the vaccine development, J&J said in a statement.

The funds will support four projects, three of which will accelerate Phase I, II and III trials of the vaccine, as well as the scaling-up of production of the vaccine. The fourth project, “will investigate innovative ways and technology to raise awareness and acceptance of vaccination campaigns,” said J&J.

The grant agreements have not been finalized, but when they have been signed, information on all the projects, including budget details, will be published.

Andrew Pollard and Matthew Snape, who are leading the Phase I and II Ebola vaccine trials at the University of Oxford for IMI, said “the initial testing of vaccines for Ebola is already underway at the university with an astonishing response from the public to volunteer for the trials, to provide the earliest possible information to guide further studies of a prime boost vaccine, that if approved, may help control the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.”

J&J’s vaccine candidate is now the third Ebola vaccine currently being tested on humans, joining a group that includes the Merck-NewLink vaccine and the GlaxoSmithKline vaccine, reported BioSpace in an earlier article. Pollard and Snape referred to J&J’s vaccine candidate as a “prime boost vaccine” because the therapy consists of two separate injections. Volunteers are first given a dose to “prime the immune system, and then a boost intended to enhance the immune response over time,” according to J&J. This regimen differs significantly from the Merck-NewLink and GlaxoSmithKline Ebola vaccine candidates, both of which entered human testing before J&J’s vaccine candidate.

“The fact that there are at least three Ebola vaccines entering these early safety trials is good news,” Snape was quoted as saying by the BBC. “The more vaccines and more manufacturers there are working on this, the better.”

“In the face of the global challenge of Ebola, bringing together the expertise and capabilities of the pharmaceutical industry, academic centers and NGOs will be critical to help solve this crisis,” said Paul Stoffels, chief scientific officer and worldwide chairman of pharmaceuticals at J&J. “The European Commission’s support through IMI bolsters collaboration that should significantly accelerate efforts to help address this humanitarian crisis.”

Organizations joining Janssen include London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and University of Oxford, France’s Institut National de la Sante et de la Recherche Medicale (INSERM) and La Centre Muraz, Denmark’s Bavarian Nordic A/S, Germany’s Vibalogics, World Vision of Ireland, and U.S.-based Grameen Foundation.

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