Canada to do clinical trial of Ebola vaccine

Choice of Halifax for trial location comes as disappointment to researchers at National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg

TORONTO – A clinical trial of the made-in-Canada Ebola vaccine will be conducted in this country, Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada announced Friday.

The location of the trial — Halifax — comes as a serious disappointment to Ebola researchers at Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg. At least some had been hoping to volunteer for the trial.

“That’s a bit of a sore point,” a source familiar with the discussions said about the decision. The person spoke on condition of anonymity.

The vaccine was developed at the Winnipeg lab. Scientists in the lab’s Ebola research program have been waiting for years for a chance to be vaccinated with the product they helped to create, in the hopes it would protect them in their work.

They had hoped the clinical trial would be conducted in Winnipeg. A clinical trial unit at a hospital in the city has done trials of a flu vaccine the Winnipeg lab is developing and researchers had hoped it could do the Ebola trial too.

Other clinical trials involving the two Ebola vaccines currently being tested are being conducted in places where scientists and people who are involved in the Ebola response can volunteer. For instance, trials are being conducted in Geneva and Lausanne, Switzerland, specifically so that World Health Organization staff can take part.

But the federal government has instead chosen a research team at Dalhousie University in Halifax, the Canadian Immunization Research Network.

Researchers there are hoping to enrol 40 volunteers to test whether a low dose of the vaccine would be protective.

This trial is one of several being conducted on the vaccine, which has been licensed to NewLink Genetics, a small biotech company in Ames, Iowa.

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