The US government has handed out contracts worth more than $40 million to NewLink Genetics and GlaxoSmithKline to help accelerate the development and manufacture of their experimental Ebola vaccines.

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has awarded GSK a 31-month, $12.9 million-plus contract and one to BioProtection Systems Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of NewLink, for around 14 months and $30 million.

Under the agreements, the UK drug giant will establish and validate master cell banks and virus seeds, which are the initial materials to start the manufacturing process, and also ramp up the vaccine manufacturing process from the current pilot scale to a commercial one capable of producing millions of vaccine doses.

BioProtection will conduct clinical trials to determine the lowest dose at which the vaccine generates an effective immune response, to enable the greatest number of people to be vaccinated. The company also will develop a more robust and reproducible vaccine manufacturing process. Options under the contract include scale-up manufacturing from pilot scale used in clinical trials to commercial scale.

“While we’re encouraged that traditional public health measures and supportive medical care are starting to control the outbreak in West Africa, the need for vaccines and therapeutics remains an urgent priority,” said Robin Robinson, director of contract sponsor the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, commenting on the move.