To increase national health security against biothreats and protect public health, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will partner with Public Health Vaccines LLC of Cambridge, Massachusetts, to develop a potential vaccine against Marburg virus. No licensed vaccine for this virus exists today.
The Marburg virus is part of the family of hemorrhagic fever viruses that includes Ebola. The virus causes a similar illness to that of Ebola, and occurs most often in Africa. The Marburg virus was recognized in 1967 and since then multiple outbreaks have occurred with high mortality rates, most recently in 2017. In addition to the threat of naturally occurring infection, the Marburg virus, like Ebola, is deemed a potential bioterrorism threat by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, awarded an initial two-year, $10 million contract to Public Health Vaccines LLC to begin development of a vaccine to protect against Marburg infection.
“This vaccine candidate is the first BARDA has funded against the Marburg virus, and it is an important step toward meeting an urgent public health and biodefense need,” said BARDA Director Rick Bright, Ph.D. “We will leverage our experience in establishing public-private partnerships that bring results that are critical to saving lives and protecting Americans – and possibly people across the globe – from health security threats.”
The Public Health Agency of Canada initially developed the vaccine and licensed it to Public Health Vaccines LLC. This approach is similar to the one Merck & Co. used to develop its Ebola vaccine. Under the agreement with BARDA, Public Health Vaccines LLC will conduct preclinical development to demonstrate the proof of concept that the vaccine can protect against Marburg virus.
If that initial development succeeds, BARDA has the option to provide additional funding for a total of up to $72 million to advance the Marburg virus vaccine through a Phase 2 clinical trial, and begin development of a vaccine candidate against the Sudan ebolavirus, a closely related virus, as well.