UW-Madison lab to make Ebola vaccine

February 26, 2018 GMT

A UW-Madison lab next month will start making an experimental Ebola virus vaccine for use in a clinical trial to start in Japan in December.

Waisman Biomanufacturing, at the university’s Waisman Center near UW Hospital, will produce up to 1,000 doses of vaccine for the clinical trial, to be led by Yoshihiro Kawaoka, a campus virologist and expert on Ebola and influenza.

The vaccine uses a technology created a decade ago by Peter Halfmann, a scientist in Kawaoka’s lab. The technology has been safely used to study the virus, identify potential drugs against it and make the vaccine, the university said in a statement.

Other Ebola vaccine candidates use vector viruses to deliver a single Ebola protein to the immune system. The UW-Madison version, considered a “whole-virus” vaccine, uses seven of the eight genes that make up the Ebola virus.

“Here, we have a whole-virus vaccine that presents all the viral proteins to the immune system, which may result in increased and broadened immune responses compared to vaccines that present only a single viral antigen to the immune system,” Kawaoka said.

The UW-Madison vaccine is missing a key protein, and can grow only in special cells engineered to contain the protein, the university said.

In 2015, Kawaoka reported that the vaccine protected monkeys from Ebola virus infection in experiments conducted at a high-level containment facility in Montana.

Ebola killed four people last year in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2014 to 2016, more than 11,000 deaths from Ebola were recorded in the west African countries of Guinea, Liberia and and Sierra Leone.

Waisman Biomanufacturing makes a variety of biopharmaceutical products. It has produced other experimental vaccines, including for HIV, influenza, hepatitis, herpes and human papillomavirus.