LONDON Aug 28 Fancy testing an Ebola vaccine?
It may sound scary but the scientist behind the British trial of
a shot that has so far only been given to monkeys sees little
risk and is optimistic he will drum up enough volunteers.
Adrian Hill, director of the Jenner Institute at the
University of Oxford, needs 60 healthy individuals in the
university town aged 18 to 50 to take part in the study of the
experimental vaccine from GlaxoSmithKline.
Given mounting alarm at the world's worst outbreak of the
disease, which has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa,
GSK and researchers in Britain, the United States and Africa
have decided to fast-track clinical testing.
That means Hill needs to pull out the stops to get
volunteers on board by the target start date of mid-September.
"I think the chances are pretty good of recruiting enough
people on time," Hill told Reuters. "We're going to be
encouraging healthcare staff in particular to volunteer - and we
have a very large hospital in Oxford."
Others, including university students, may also take part -
and all those participating will be entitled to a payment to
compensate them for their time, since the trial will involve
nine visits over six months, as well as a single injection.
The compensation is likely to be in the "low hundreds" of
pounds, although the final figure has yet to be set by the
ethical committee looking after this particular study.
"It won't make anyone rich," Hill said. He wanted volunteers
who believed in the project rather than those needing the money.
Healthcare workers are an obvious choice, he believes, since
the World Health Organisation says they are a group that could
benefit from the early emergency deployment of a vaccine.
The aim of the so-called Phase I trial is to assess safety
and immune responses, so Hill will be on the look-out for side
effects such as sore arms or fevers the day after injection.
He is not worried that any of the subjects will catch Ebola,
since the vaccine contains no infectious Ebola virus material.
The only Ebola component is a gene for a protein that sits
on the virus's surface - and that protein does not cause
illness. The vaccine is nothing like more familiar vaccines,
such as for mumps and rubella, which contain the actual virus.
The Jenner Institute vaccinates 2,000 people a year in
clinical trials and has played a leading role in testing other
vaccines that consist of a common cold virus, called an
adenovirus, that has been engineered to carry inserted genes.
All such vaccines have had a good safety record in
early-stage trials for diseases including malaria, tuberculosis
and HIV, although none has yet made it to market, Hill said.
(Additional reporting by Sharon Begley in New York; Editing by