[T]he race to discover an effective yet lucrative Ebola vaccine commenced in earnest about 10 years ago. Most of the research was funded fully or in part by such auspicious entities like BARDA (Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority) wing of DARPA (Defense Advances Research Projects Agency), the NIH (National Institutes of Health), USAMRIID (United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases), or NIAID (National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases). However, private money has also found its way into laboratories across the globe, and major pharmaceutical companies like Merck have led the way.
In 2007, Merck spun off a biopharmaceutical company called Okairos for its ‘clinical-stage’ vaccines. One of the most prominent of these vaccine candidates includes a recombinant vector based on chimpanzee adenoviruses. A vector is simply a molecular truck that delivers a payload into a living system. Adenoviruses can infect humans and primates (the literature will say ‘non-human primates’, but since I believe in Creation, I consider primates and human entirely different species with no common ancestry).
Originally, numerous researchers explored the human adenovirus (HAdV) as possible vectors, but many of us already have been exposed at some time previously, which means we already carry antibodies against HAdV—in fact, it is often cultured from the throats of sick children. Our natural immunity to HAdV meant it could not be used as a vector, but non-human versions could. Hence, about ten years ago, research began using various serotypes of chimpanzee adenovirus (ChAdV, sometimes written CAdV). One of the leading candidates for an Ebola vaccine includes the number 3 serotype, CAdV-3. Okairos, the spinoff from Merck, has found a way to remove the dangerous genes from the DNA genome of the adenovirus and insert an Ebola Glycoprotein (EVD-GP) instead. This allows the viral vector to express the Ebola GP on its outer membrane, which makes it look just like an Ebola virus particle. Continue reading