Halifax researchers testing Ebola vaccine

- November 14, 2014

Dr. Scott Halperin. (Provided photo)
Dr. Scott Halperin. (Provided photo)

A clinical trial for an experimental Ebola vaccine is underway at the Halifax-based Canadian Center for Vaccinology (CCfV).

Dr. Scott Halperin, director of the CCfV and professor of Microbiology & Immunology at Dalhousie Medical School, is the medical lead for the trial, which is being led by the Canadian Immunization Research Network (CIRN). CCfV will be the only vaccine test site in the country.

“We’ve conducted many Phase 1 clinical trials, but this one is particularly exciting given the urgency to develop an effective vaccine,” says Dr. Halperin, who’s also head of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the IWK Health Centre.

The vaccine is made with a live animal virus called vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV). It doesn’t contain the Ebola virus.

“For the Ebola vaccine, the VSV has been genetically modified to produce a protein. This protein causes the immune system to generate antibodies that fight Ebola infection,” explains Dr. Halperin. “The vaccine can’t cause Ebola.”

40 volunteers needed

Forty people aged 18-65 are needed for the clinical trial. Because of the extensive eligibility requirements for participants, approximately 120 people will go through initial screening.

The Canadian-made vaccine is one of two experimental Ebola vaccines undergoing tests in humans. The Halifax trial is taking place concurrently with trials in the United States in an effort to expedite the collection of information needed to do further studies in larger populations.

“We’ll be looking to see whether lower doses of the vaccine can induce an immune response against Ebola,” explains Dr. Halperin. “And we’ll also be looking at the effect of the vaccine on a broader age range than was included in the other trials.”

The preliminary CCfV trial results are expected in early 2015.

Canadian effort to fight global threat

Dr. Gregory Taylor, Canada’s chief public health officer, says this experimental Ebola vaccine is the result of years of innovation and hard work by Canadian scientists.

“The results of these clinical trials will offer us valuable data about the safety and effectiveness of our vaccine and will hopefully provide us with the information we need to proceed with further clinical trials in the countries most affected by Ebola,” says Dr. Taylor.

CIRN, the lead group for the clinical trial, is comprised of more than 100 cross-disciplinary experts in vaccine-related research from more than 40 Canadian institutions. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) jointly fund CIRN’s vaccine research.

"Canadian health researchers are recognized worldwide for their considerable expertise and leadership in carrying out high quality clinical trials,” says Alain Beaudet, president of CIHR. “This trial demonstrates the commitment and collaborative spirit of the Canadian health research community and its capacity to rapidly mobilize in response to a global crisis."

Infectious diseases is one of Dalhousie Medical School’s core research strengths. More than 40 Dalhousie investigators, all affiliated with the IWK or Capital Health, are pursuing vaccine research at the Canadian Center for Vaccinology.

More information on volunteering for the Ebola vaccine trial can be found at:  


All comments require a name and email address. You may also choose to log-in using your preferred social network or register with Disqus, the software we use for our commenting system. Join the conversation, but keep it clean, stay on the topic and be brief. Read comments policy.

comments powered by Disqus