BREAKTHROUGHS BLOG

February 24, 2020

Research Roundup: Ebola vaccine licensed in five African countries, Sanofi & HHS to develop COVID-19 vaccine, and digital AMR platform in Zambia

Ansley Kahn
Senior Program Assistant
GHTC
PATH/Matthew Dakin

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Five African countries have become the first to license Merck’s highly effective Ebola vaccine, rVSV-ZEBOV-GP. This means the vaccine can now be administered in those countries—including the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Burundi, Ghana, Zambia, and Guinea— without being subject to clinical trial or research protocols. Three months ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) prequalified rVSV-ZEBOV-GP when it announced that the vaccine met quality, safety, and efficiency standards—paving the way for African countries to start their own regulatory processes. rVSV-ZEBOV-GP was first used in the 2015 Ebola outbreak and later in the current ongoing outbreak under a “compassionate use” research protocol, where it was found to be more than 97 percent effective.

Last week, Sanofi Pasteur announced it would partner with the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. Sanofi’s previous work to develop a vaccine for SARS, another coronavirus, could give the company a head start on other drug-makers racing to develop a vaccine against COVID-19. With BARDA funding, Sanofi plans to develop a bank of vaccine candidates and produce pilot lots for testing. No decisions have been made about later-stage funding. Sanofi expects to have a vaccine candidate to test in the lab within six months, which could be ready for human trials within a year to 18 months. Sanofi is the second major vaccine maker, along with Janssen (Johnson & Johnson), to announce it will try to develop a vaccine against COVID-19, which has reportedly infected more than 70,000 people, mostly in China. Other small biotechs are also working on candidates.

The Zambia National Public Health Institute and FIND have launched a new platform that enables data-driven decision-making to tackle antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The platform, Zambia One Health Surveillance System, captures reliable AMR data from across sectors, including human and animal health, in a unified and harmonized data management system. Prior to this platform, Zambia lacked a systematic approach for the collection, collation, and analysis of AMR data to inform an effective response to the rising threat of AMR. According to WHO, AMR is a global public threat that could lead to over ten million deaths per year by 2050.

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