Johnson & Johnson to begin Phase 1 trials on Ebola test vaccine

Johnson & Johnson said it will begin a Phase 1 trial of an Ebola test vaccine. | Courtesy of Drug Discovery and Development Magazine

Johnson & Johnson said Tuesday that it planned to start a Phase 1 human clinical trial of an Ebola vaccine that is still in development.

The vaccine is being developed by its Janssen Pharmaceutical Cos. subsidiary, and the trial is being led by the University of Oxford Department of Pediatrics' Oxford Vaccine Group. The first volunteers already have been given an initial vaccine dose, and recruitment will continue until the end of January, with a total of 72 health adults receiving the vaccine.

The trial will look to evaluate the “safety and tolerability” of the vaccine, the company said. The first dose is meant to prime the immune system, with a booster given later to enhance the immune response over a period of time.

"As a leader in the field of global health, we have a responsibility to act swiftly as Ebola continues to cause suffering among patients, families and health care workers in West Africa," Alex Gorsky, chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson, said.

The company also said Janssen had produced more than 400,000 regimens of the prime-boost vaccine through its partnership with Bavarian Nordic A/S. The vaccines can be used for a large-scale clinical trial by April. About 2 million regimens will become available throughout the year, Johnson & Johnson said.

The projections are more than the previous goal of 1 million regimens by the end of the year, set by Janssen.

"Because every day counts, we are substantially accelerating the production of our vaccine regimen," Paul Stoffels, chief scientific officer and worldwide chairman of Johnson & Johnson, said.

"Through the unprecedented collaboration among the global health community, our goal is to bring this vaccine to families and front-line health care professionals as fast as possible."