Johnson & Johnson is accelerating the development of a combination vaccine regimen against Ebola.

The regimen consists of two components from J&J unit Crucell NV and Bavarian Nordic, and the programme has received funding and preclinical support from the US National Institutes of Health. The decision to fast-track the combo is in response to the current outbreak in West Africa and is aligned with the World Health Organisation's Ebola Response Roadmap, J&J said.  

It is hoped that clinical trials in humans will begin in early 2015. To date, more than 1,000 humans have received Crucell's adeno-platform based vaccine in studies, while Bavarian Nordic's MVA-BN platform is the basis of the smallpox vaccine registered in Canada and Europe and stockpiled in the rest of the world with a safety record of use in more than 7,300 humans.

J&J is also offering additional support to the non-profit organisation Direct Relief International to facilitate the air transport of a variety of infection prevention products to Liberia and Sierra Leone.

UK research

Meantime, researchers from the University of Liverpool in collaboration with Public Health England say they have been investigating new ways to identify drugs that could be used to treat Ebola virus infection.
Their approach has been to study what proteins inside a cell are critical for the functions of Ebola virus and are hijacked by the latter to help with infection. One of the proteins they have targeted is known as VP24, which disrupts signalling in infected human cells and disrupts the body’s immune system.
Once the team identified these cellular proteins, they were able to find out whether any drugs were already in existence that could block the function of the particular protein. One such drug identified was ouabain, which can be used in the treatment of heart disease and administering this therapy reduced virus replication in treated cells.