Johnson & Johnson has begun a phase I, first-in-human clinical trial of a preventive Ebola vaccine in development at its Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies. The trial is being led by the Oxford Vaccine Group, part of the University of Oxford Department of Pediatrics. Recruitment in the trial is underway, and the first volunteers have received their initial vaccine dose. Enrollment is expected to be completed by the end of January.
Johnson & Johnson also announced that Janssen, in partnership with Bavarian Nordic, has produced more than 400,000 regimens of the prime-boost vaccine for use in large-scale clinical trials by April. A total of 2 million regimens will be available through the course of 2015, with the ability to quickly scale up to 5 million regimens, if required, over a 12- to 18-month period. This increased projection is an update to Janssen's previous goal of producing more than 1 million regimens by the end of 2015, with 250,000 regimens for broad application in clinical trials by May.
Modeling by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to advise the World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that to bring the epidemic under control, current projected demand for a preventive vaccine ranges from a minimum of 100,000 doses to protect frontline workers to a high-end of 12 million doses for large-scale adult vaccination in the three affected countries.
"Because every day counts, we are substantially accelerating the production of our vaccine regimen," said Paul Stoffels, M.D., chief scientific officer and worldwide chairman, Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson. "Through the unprecedented collaboration among the global health community, our goal is to bring this vaccine to families and frontline health care professionals as fast as possible."
The phase I, first-in-human study will evaluate the safety and tolerability of a prime-boost vaccine regimen, in which patients are first given a dose to prime the immune system, and then a boost intended to enhance the immune response over time. The immune response generated by the regimen will also be evaluated longer term. Different regimens combining the vaccine components or placebo will be studied in 72 healthy adult volunteers. Additional clinical studies are planned to begin in the U.S. later this month and soon after in Africa. Further details of the study are posted on clinicaltrials.gov.
Dr. Matthew Snape of the Oxford Vaccine Group and the study leader, said, "Initiating this study in the space of eight weeks represents a critical leap forward in being able to rapidly develop an Ebola prime-boost vaccine regimen, and these results will be vital to the design of future studies in broader populations."
In October 2014, Johnson & Johnson announced a commitment of up to $200 million to accelerate and significantly expand production of an Ebola vaccine program in development at its Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies. The company is seeking to share the financial risk of these vaccine and development clinical trial costs by pursuing governmental and non-governmental funding sources.
The vaccine regimen, which was discovered in a collaborative research program with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), uses a prime-boost combination of two components that are based on AdVac technology from Crucell Holland, one of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies, and the MVA-BN technology from Bavarian Nordic, a biotechnology company based in Denmark.
The Crucell Holland program received direct funding and preclinical services from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of NIH. Preclinical experiments of the prime-boost vaccine regimen conducted by the NIH demonstrated that when both vaccines were administered two months apart, complete protection from death due to Ebola was achieved against the Kikwit Zaire strain, which is similar to the virus that is the cause of the current outbreak in West Africa.
The research collaboration for a monovalent vaccine targeting the Zaire strain of the Ebola virus is part of an ongoing development program for a multivalent vaccine against all virus strains that cause disease in humans, including Ebola and Marburg viruses based on the Ad26 and Ad35 vectors.
The company also supports the ongoing efforts by public health authorities, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and WHO, to mount a coordinated world response to address the immediate needs raised by the Ebola outbreak. As part of its commitment to support nurses, Johnson & Johnson gave an educational grant to Nurse.com to make available to every nurse in the U.S. continuing education resources about Ebola.