- The U.S. government will fund manufacturing for another year of an investigational Ebola vaccine, providing developer Merck & Co. with $23 million to make doses for the ongoing outbreak of the virus in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
- All told, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, has put up $176 million to support development of Merck's product, called V920.
- More than 192,000 people have been vaccinated against Ebola with V920 through an expanded access program that provides Merck's product to those at risk of contracting the virus.
Merck has moved to secure Food and Drug Administration approval for V920, which is also known as rVSV-ZEBOV and came to the pharma's pipeline via a 2014 licensing deal with NewLink Genetics.
Until an FDA decision, the Department of Health and Human Services is working with Merck to make the vaccine available in the DRC in hopes of stemming an outbreak that's now the second largest on record.
As of Aug. 20, a little more than a year after the outbreak's start, nearly 3,000 people have contracted the virus and 1,961 have died, according to a count maintained by the World Health Organization.
According to HHS, V920 is proving effective in protecting people against Ebola.
Data recently cited by the WHO showed that among more than 93,000 people at risk who were vaccinated, only 71 contracted Ebola. Most of those cases involved onset of symptoms between zero and nine days post-vaccination, prior to the ten-day period after which vaccinated individuals are assumed to be protected.
By contrast, 880 people at risk who did not receive treatment with V920 developed Ebola.
Researchers estimate the vaccine efficacy at 97.5%, according to the preliminary WHO analysis which has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Via an agreement between BARDA and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the U.S. Department of Defense transported bulk vaccine materials from Merck sites in Germany to the company's production facility in Pennsylvania, where the additional doses will be made.
While vaccine work advances, other approaches are showing promise, too.
Two experimental treatments, including one developed by Regeneron, appeared to help more affected individuals stay alive than standard treatment, according to initial results from a study known as PALM.
Both drugs are being advanced to the next stage of clinical testing.