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In the Shadow of Ebola

An experimental Ebola virus vaccine made at UW-Madison will be used in a clinical trial expected to start in Japan in December, the researcher behind the vaccine said last week.

The vaccine, developed in the lab of UW-Madison scientist Yoshihiro Kawaoka, was produced at Waisman Biomanufacturing, a specialized center at the university’s Waisman Center near UW Hospital.

In the phase 1 study in Japan involving 30 participants, 15 people will get a low dose of the vaccine and 15 people will get a high dose, said Kawaoka, who also works at the University of Tokyo.

If the vaccine is found to be safe and effective, a larger study will be conducted in Africa, where Ebola outbreaks have occurred in recent years, including a current outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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, according to UW-Madison.

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UW-Madison vaccine protects monkeys from Ebola

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.

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.

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