Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline will be part of an international consortium aiming to fast track trials of a vaccine to tackle the Ebola outbreak.
GSK will collaborate with the US National Institutes of Health in researching Ebola vaccinations after obtaining a £2.8m grant from the Wellcome Trust, the Medical Research Council and the UK Department for International Development.
The funding will enable GSK to manufacture up to 10,000 additional doses of the vaccine at the same time as the initial clinical trials.
It ensures that if trials are successful, then vaccines would then be made immediately available by GSK to the World Health Organisation (WHO) to create emergency immunisation programmes for high-risk communities.
The move to accelerate the research process was greenlit after the WHO declared an international emergency earlier this month, following new Ebola cases being detected in Europe and Africa.
If successful, the vaccine could be trialled to UK volunteers by as early as September, as part of safety trials of possible vaccines aimed at preventing the disease which has killed more than 1,400 people in its current outbreak in West Africa.
Professor Adrian Hill of the Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford, who will be leading the research team in the US, said the accelerated speed of the trials was born out of urgency.
“The tragic events unfolding in Africa demand an urgent response. In recent years, similar investigational vaccines have safely immunised infants and adults against a range of diseases including malaria, HIV and Hepatitis C,” he said.
“We, and all our partners on this project, are optimistic that this candidate vaccine may prove useful against Ebola.”
Dr Moncef Slaoui, chairman of Global R&D and Vaccines at GSK said the announcement is a good example of private companies collaborating with public bodies in the industry.
“Today’s announcement shows how private and public partners can pull together to respond to this critical public health emergency,” he said.
“Developing a new vaccine is complex with no guarantees of success and it’s still early days for our Ebola vaccine candidate. But we are encouraged by progress so far and will do the best we can, along with WHO and our partners, to speed up development and explore ways in which the vaccine could contribute to the control of this or future Ebola outbreaks.”