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NIH researchers report promising results in prevention and treatment of Ebola virus disease

(from left) NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins, NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, and NIH Clinical Center Director Dr. John Gallin exit the Clinical Center with recently discharged Ebola patient Nina Pham (next to Dr. Fauci).

NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the Pharmaceuticals division of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), a global healthcare company, have developed a promising experimental vaccine to prevent Ebola virus disease. Twenty healthy adult volunteers took part in a small phase 1 clinical trial of the vaccine. Researchers say the vaccine was well-tolerated, and produced immune responses in all 20 people. The experimental vaccine is not made from the whole Ebola virus, so it cannot cause Ebola virus disease. The findings are published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

In early December, Dr. Nancy Sullivan of NIAID discussed Ebola research with President Barack Obama, as NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci and HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell look on at NIH's Vaccine Research Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

"The unprecedented scale of the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa has intensified efforts to develop safe and effective vaccines, which may play a role in bringing this epidemic to an end and undoubtedly will be critically important in preventing future large outbreaks," said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, MD. "Based on these positive results from the first human trial of this candidate vaccine, we are continuing our accelerated plan for larger trials to determine if the vaccine is efficacious in preventing Ebola infection.

The experimental vaccine was tested at the NIH Clinical Center, the nation's research hospital located on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland. That is the same facility where Texas nurse Nina Pham was successfully treated for Ebola virus disease in October.

"We like to think of the National Institutes of Health as also the National Institutes of Hope," said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, at a press conference the day of Ms. Pham's release. "And hope just went up a notch today."

Two months later, in December, President Barack Obama visited the NIH campus to see the progress being made in Ebola research. The President toured NIH's Vaccine Research Center and met with scientists working to develop ways to prevent Ebola virus disease.

The President's visit took place just days after NIH researchers reported the promising results from the initial tests of the experimental vaccine.

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Winter 2015 Issue: Volume 9 Number 4 Page 28