Jefferson Receives NIAID Contract To Develop Vaccine for Ebola and Other Hemorrhagic Viruses

Jefferson (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University) has received a contract from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, to prepare and test a vaccine formulation designed to protect against the Ebola, Sudan, Marburg, and Lassa fever viruses. If successful, this would be the first vaccine to induce protection against four hemorrhagic fever viruses, which can damage blood vessels, cause internal bleeding and result in high mortality rates, as seen in the West African Ebola outbreak.

Dr. Schnell's research focuses on vaccines for Ebola and other emerging viral diseases.

Dr. Schnell’s research focuses on vaccines for Ebola and other emerging viral diseases.

NIAID has made an initial award of about $2.6 million to the University with further funding of up to $30 million available over the five-year contract if all contract options are exercised. The goal is to complete a Phase 1 clinical trial of the tetravalent vaccine.

“Our approach is to create a broad scope of coverage with a tetravalent vaccine—one that covers four of these deadly viral diseases., said Principal Investigator Matthias Schnell, Ph.D., professor and chair of Microbiology and Immunology and director of the Jefferson Vaccine Center at the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Jefferson.

The tetravalent vaccine would have the added advantage of protecting against the deadly rabies virus. Since the vaccine will be an inactivated, or killed, virus formulation, it cannot cause infection and has the potential to be safe for all populations, including immune-compromised individuals, pregnant women and young children.

Schnell, who also is director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Neurovirology, will lead the project team, composed of experts in the field of vaccine development and testing. “A project of this size can benefit significantly from a broad range of vaccine expertise, resulting in the timely development, formulation, testing, and manufacturing of a new and novel vaccine product,” Schnell said.

The project team is composed of representatives from  IDT Biologika GmbH, to develop the manufacturing process and manufacture the vaccine; the Infectious Disease Research Institute and Immune Design, to develop the adjuvant component that will boost the vaccine’s potency;  Exxell BIO, Inc., to assist in the clinical trial strategy and testing; and the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, together with The Geneva Foundation, to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the completed vaccine prior to human use.

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