Nature Medicine April 29, 2014
Very few candidate therapeutics against Ebola have proven effective in non-human primates, the gold-standard animal model for research against such viruses. But there is, amidst the ongoing outbreak, mobilization of funding toward anti-Ebola agents that have proven their mettle in such models: last month the U.S. National Institutes of Health announced that it was putting a combined total of more than $50 million towards a handful of the most promising approaches. About half of that money will support a five-year collaborative research effort spanning 20 labs in seven countries to develop a cocktail of antibodies that neutralize the virus. The other half of the new funding the NIH announced last month is going toward a multi-center collaboration led by Ebola researcher Thomas Geisbert at UTMB. The partnership aims to advance several different types of therapeutics for Ebola virus and the related Marburg virus, which also causes hemorrhagic fevers in humans. One of the group’s candidate therapeutics is a vaccine containing a form of the vesicular stomatitis virus engineered to contain a gene from the Zaire strain of the Ebola virus (they’ve also devised similar vaccines for Marburg virus as well as a different strain of Ebola virus). Geisbert’s lab has shown that a single shot of the vaccine saves rhesus macaques from a lethal dose of Ebola virus.