Campus News

UW-Madison professor leads Ebola vaccine effort

UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine Professor Yoshihiro Kawaola is helping to produce a new vaccine for Ebola.

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger and Cameron Lane-Flehinger

While previously tested on monkeys, an experimental Ebola vaccine produced by a UW-Madison lab is slated to be used in clinical trial on humans.

The project — led by UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine Professor Yoshihiro Kawaola with the help of Waisman Biomanufacturing — will develop 1000 doses of the vaccine for use in the trials that are set to begin in Japan this December.

The vaccine will be produced at Waisman Biomanufacturing, located in UW-Madison’s Waisman Center, according to a university release. The staff of the facility provides expert help with manufacturing processes, quality control and overall product development in addition to regulatory support.

While other vaccines work by exposing the immune system to parts of viruses, this new vaccine will offer better protection against Ebola virus than others in the pipeline because it is a whole-virus vaccine, according to Kawaoka.

“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,” he said in the release.

The technology behind the new vaccine was developed nearly a decade ago by Peter Halfmann, a research scientist in Kawaoka’s lab, who is also an expert on the Ebola virus.

Known as “Delta VP30,” the technology is safe to work with and noninfectious, according to the release. The experimental vaccine has already proven to be efficient in protecting monkeys from the virus.

While Ebola is generally considered a very rare disease, outbreaks of the virus in sub-Saharan Africa have resulted in major loss of life and economic disturbance in recent years. During the outbreak from 2014-'16, the death toll was 11,000 in west African countries.

Production of the vaccine at Waisman Biomanufacturing will begin in March, with the clinical vaccine doses for the Japanese trial scheduled to be produced by December of 2018.

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