Johnson & Johnson begins testing on vaccine for Ebola virus similar to one causing outbreak

Associated Press

Johnson & Johnson has begun testing an Ebola vaccine in humans intended to counter a strain of the virus similar to the one that has wreaked havoc in West Africa.

The company said Tuesday that the first volunteers have received an initial dose and that, in a partnership Bavarian Nordic AS, more than 400,000 regimens of the prime-boost vaccine have been produced for use in large-scale clinical trials by April 2015.

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The early-stage research will focus on the safety and tolerability of a vaccine regimen that includes an initial dose and then a follow-up boost a couple months later. A total of 72 healthy adults will receive either the vaccine or a fake drug.

The New Brunswick, New Jersey, company said earlier experiments conducted by the National Institutes of Health showed that the vaccine regimen protected against the Kikwit Zaire strain of Ebola.

Several drugmakers are racing to create an Ebola vaccine following an outbreak that has been blamed for killing more than 7,000 people in West Africa over the past year.

There are no proven drugs or vaccines for Ebola, a disease so rare that it's been hard to attract investments in countermeasures. The current outbreak has struck mostly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone since it emerged last year.

Shares of Johnson & Johnson closed at $103.79 Monday and climbed more than 14 percent last year.