As part of the international response to the Ebola virus outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and to meet domestic biodefense goals, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) will support manufacturing of an investigational Ebola vaccine, V920, from Merck & Co. Inc. of Kenilworth, New Jersey, known outside the U.S. and Canada as MSD.
The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), a component of ASPR, will provide $23 million to Merck to produce Ebola vaccine doses over the next year. BARDA also will continue to work with Merck on advanced development of V920, also known as rVSV-ZEBOV, toward obtaining U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) licensure.
With the new funding, BARDA will have provided approximately $176 million to support development of the investigational vaccine. In addition, the Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health have supported numerous pre-clinical and clinical research projects related to the vaccine’s development.
“The best way to protect people at home from Ebola is to stop the virus from spreading abroad, and effective vaccine is an essential tool in that effort,” said BARDA Director Rick Bright, Ph.D. “By ensuring that investigational vaccines continue to be available, we aid the global response and, simultaneously, help improve domestic preparedness.”
Through an expanded access protocol, the investigational vaccine is available for people at risk of contracting Ebola in the ongoing DRC outbreak, the second largest Ebola outbreak on record.
Health officials in the DRC quickly try to identify and vaccinate high-risk contacts of each infected person. As of Aug. 16, more than 192,000 people have been vaccinated with V920 through compassionate use, and the investigational vaccine is showing effectiveness in protecting people against Ebola.
Under an interagency agreement between BARDA and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), BARDA provided funding for the Department of Defense to transport bulk vaccine materials from Merck’s facilities in Germany to the company’s facility in Pennsylvania to produce the additional doses.
In addition to working with Merck and other companies on Ebola vaccine development, BARDA continues to collaborate with federal and private sector partners to develop tests and therapeutic drugs to diagnose and treat Ebola disease.