Research Roundup: COVID-19 clinical trials paused, Pfizer to expand vaccine trial to adolescents, and first Ebola treatment approved by FDA
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Clinical trials for Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine candidate and Eli Lilly’s COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treatment were paused last week, while the US arm of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine trial remains on hold since a patient’s potential adverse reaction in September. Vaccine experts say these pauses should be reassuring, not frightening, as they indicate the trial process is functioning as it is designed to; a clinical trial with no reports of adverse events would be unusual. J&J announced its trial pause after an “unexplained illness” in a trial participant, and the company will be reviewing the case along with an independent data monitoring board before making a decision on whether to resume the trial. Eli Lilly’s trial pause came after a potential safety concern flagged by an independent review board, and the board will review the data again at a later date to make a decision on its continuation.
Pfizer announced last week it has received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to expand its COVID-19 vaccine trial to include children ages 12 and up. This development will look to understand vaccine safety and efficacy among adolescents and will mark the first inclusion of children under 16 in a COVID-19 vaccine trial in the United States. More than half a million children have been infected with COVID-19 this year, and more than two-thirds of the children who died were Black or Latinx, according to Sara Gozer, president of the American Academy of Pediatricians. While vaccine trials began with a focus on older participants due to their higher risk for more serious illness, pediatricians have emphasized the importance of not leaving children behind as trials progress.
FDA has approved Inmazeb, an antibody cocktail made by Regeneron, for use as an Ebola therapeutic. This is the first FDA approval for a treatment specific to Ebola, and means there is now an FDA-approved treatment and vaccine for the virus. The treatment, which has been used during the current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) under compassionate use protocol, was shown to be effective during a clinical trial conducted during the 2018–2020 outbreak in eastern DRC. The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority has purchased an undisclosed number of Inmazeb doses for the US strategic stockpile, and Regeneron has said it will work to ensure low-income countries will also have access to the treatment.