On February 2, the Liberia-U.S. Joint Clinical Research Partnership initiated a large Ebola vaccine trial in Liberia. The first volunteer was given a dose of either the ChAd3-EBOZ vaccine (GlaxoSmithKline), the rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine (Merck/NewLink) or a placebo.
Over the last three months, University of Minnesota School of Public Health faculty and staff have worked under the leadership of biostatistics professor Dr. James Neaton with colleagues from NIH, Liberia and the participating pharmaceutical companies to develop a trial protocol. That work included many trips to Liberia to identify vaccination centers and establish the necessary trial infrastructure.
“It is an honor for my colleagues at the University of Minnesota and me to collaborate on this large-scale undertaking to prevent infection by this deadly virus,” said Dr. Neaton, who has led some of the world’s largest HIV treatment trials. “So many people have spent time in Monrovia and many more on the home front have worked hard to get this trial up and running.”
The trial is part of a study called PREVAIL (Partnership for Research on Ebola Vaccines in Liberia), which comes as the result of a request from the Liberian Minister of Health to the U.S. Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to enter into a partnership on clinical research. The intended purpose of this collaboration is to accelerate the development of vaccines to prevent Ebola and medicines to treat people infected with the disease.
For the vaccine trial, approximately 27,000 healthy adult volunteers will be divided into three groups and each participant will be injected with one of the two vaccines or the placebo. The assignment of a volunteer to a specific vaccine group will be determined by chance and all participants will be given advice on how to avoid being infected with Ebola.
Neither the volunteer nor the study staff will know which vaccine has been administered until the end of the study. The first volunteer was vaccinated at Monrovia’s Redemption Hospital. Several additional sites in Liberia are planned.