U.S. awards grant for Ebola and Marburg vaccine

Researchers from Texas Biomed, the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University were recently awarded $5.4 million by the U.S. government to develop an experimental vaccine for use against the Ebola and Marburg hemorrhagic viruses.

The vaccine utilizes noninfectious small portions of the viruses to trigger an immune response, according to MySanAntonio.com. It has so far been proven safe and effective and is ready to be tested in nonhuman primates before being tested in humans.

Outbreaks of the virus still occur in some parts of Africa, but the federal government is more interested in stopping the potential threat of Marburg or Ebola being used as a biological weapon.

“Before the 9/11 anthrax attacks, nobody would fund this kind of work,” Jean Patterson, the chairwoman of virology and immunology at Texas Biomed, said, according to MySanAntonio.com. “After that, it became more fundable. So there's a lot of work being done. And I suspect we will probably see a very successful vaccine in the very near future.”

Patterson said that Ebola and Marburg are more stable and less complex than many other viruses, which makes the job of creating a vaccine somewhat easier.

“I think this might not be as big a challenge as other things, like the AIDS virus, to make a vaccine for it," Patterson said, MySanAntonio.com reports.

The two viruses are very similar to one another, both belonging to a family of viruses known as filiviruses. Both infections will be included in a single vaccine.

TexasBiomed, formerly known as the SouthWest Foundation for Biomedical Research, operates a BioSafety Level 4 laboratory, one of very few in existence. It is capable of housing some of the world’s deadliest pathogens.