NewLink Genetics: Ready to test Ebola vaccine

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

An Iowa drug developer says it is ready to start an initial round of human testing for a possible vaccine for the deadly Ebola virus.

NewLink Genetics Chief Financial Officer Gordon Link said Thursday the timing of the testing, which would involve up to 100 healthy volunteers, is uncertain.

"We're getting a lot of assistance from a number of sources to accelerate this, so exactly how long it's going to take is a little uncertain because people are greasing the paths as much as they can," Link said.

There is no proven treatment or vaccine for Ebola. The current outbreak of the virus in West Africa is the biggest in history. It has killed more than 1,000 people.

NewLink Genetics Corporation says the vaccine has been 100 percent effective in preventing deadly Ebola infections in non-human primates, and it acts quickly enough to show effectiveness in animals that received a typically lethal dose of the virus. The main goal would be to show the vaccine is safe in humans.

The company also is working to line up manufacturing partners to make doses of the vaccine for both the first-stage study, which will involve up to 100 healthy volunteers and donations to the World Health Organization.

"It is not a particularly challenging vaccine to manufacture," said Dr. Nicholas Vahanian, NewLink's president and chief medical officer. "We are expending all our efforts to be able to secure additional manufacturing partners so we can meet high demand."

Shares of the Ames, Iowa, company soared 8 percent, or $1.86, to $25.30 in Thursday morning trading, while broader indexes were nearly flat.