Swiss on the brink of Ebola vaccine trials

As health staff battle the virus on the ground, the Swiss could join the ranks of countries already carrying out clinical trials for a vaccine AP Photo

Two clinical trials for an Ebola vaccination could be set up in Switzerland. The Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) is waiting for the go-ahead from the federal bodies that approve drugs trials before it can get started.

This content was published on September 18, 2014 minutes and agencies

The trials involve the two most-talked about vaccines the World Health Organization (WHO) is keen to develop quickly, according to Marcel Tanner, director of Swiss TPH, speaking to Swiss public Radio, SRF on Thursday.

The phase 1 tests would take place in Geneva and Lausanne, and would involve 100 participants. The drugs would also be tested out in parallel in Africa, in a place not affected by Ebola.

The main aim of trials at this stage is to test how safe a drug is and assess its ability to provide an immune response.

The first potential vaccine has been developed by the US health authorities and the pharmaceuticals company, GlaxoSmithKline. The other, by US company NewLink Genetics.

Both are harmless viruses with a genetic makeup that includes certain Ebola proteins. They attack surface proteins of the virus, rendering it harmless.

In tests on monkeys and smaller laboratory animals, the two potential vaccines have been shown to have an effect on Ebola.

If the correct antibodies are produced by the participants in the clinical trials, the drugs will then be given to health workers in affected areas, in a fast-track process.  This would still be next year at the earliest however, according to Tanner.

The Swiss agency for the authorisation and supervision of therapeutic products, Swissmedic, and the Ethics Commission have to approve the trials before they can begin.

Swissmedic’s deputy director,Petra Dörr, said on Thursday: “As soon as the dossier is with us, we will work on it as a high priority.”

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