West Lafayette company developing Ebola vaccine

(Provided Photo/Chad Priest)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) – Nearly 20 years ago in California, Dr. Stephen Hall created a vaccine technology where he takes a viral-like particle and engineers it to carry different regions of a virus. Now, in West Lafayette, he and his team at Pentamer Pharmaceuticals are taking that technology and trying to create an Ebola vaccine.

“That enables it to carry different regions of the Ebola virus and different regions of different strains of the Ebola virus, which is very unique,” Hall said.

Hall said it is important the vaccine can treat several strains of the virus because the mutation of the virus since the outbreak began is a top concern of his.

“The delay in response against the Ebola outbreak caused the virus to mutate pretty significantly,” Hall said. “In fact, in the first 24 days it’s mutated 300 times.”

The World Health Organization did not declare the outbreak a world health emergency until four and a half months after it started. Hall said that delay not only contributed to the mutation, but also to his other concerns including the spread of the virus between countries. It may come as a surprise, but Hall is especially concerned about the strains that are less fatal.

“The less virulent the virus is the more it will infect more people,” Hall said. “The person will get infected and it will be a less serious strain, and the person will go around thinking they aren’t very sick.”

The next step in the vaccine development is to do animal testing. Hall said he needs to see the animals generate an immune response.

“If they do, then that suggests the antibodies that are generated might be protective. But we don’t know that, until we immunize animals and subsequently challenge them with a live virus,” Hall said.

For that next step, Dr. Hall said some of the several hundred thousand dollar cost will be paid by Pentamer. A crowd funding campaign has been set up to raise the rest of the money. Click here for more information.

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