The Department of Health and Human Services awarded Tuesday an $8.2 million contract to Baltimore-based Profectus BioSciences Inc. for research and development of an Ebola vaccine proven 100 percent effective in animal tests, according to the company.
Elleen Kane, an HHS spokeswoman, said the contract is for animal studies but did not provide any further details.
In a paper presented to an international vaccine conference in 2012, Profectus said its vaccine provided 100 percent protection for monkeys and guinea pigs in tests with the Zaire variant of Ebola. The company said its research has been backed by grants from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
The Ebola vaccine contract award comes as the U.S. deals with the case of a second Ebola infection by a nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. The nurse tested positive for the virus after caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, who was treated at the hospital and died Oct. 8.
The World Health Organization said in late August more than 240 health care workers had developed the disease in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, and more than 120 had died.
In its 2012 paper, Profectus said its Ebola vaccine would help protect health care workers from the virus.
“An effective prophylactic vaccine would find application with medical personnel and close contacts during outbreaks in endemic areas of sub-Saharan Africa, with laboratory workers engaged in filovirus research, and with military and civilian personnel threatened by weaponized filoviruses,” the paper stated.
The Defense Department’s Joint Project Manager Medical Countermeasure Systems located at Ft. Detrick, Maryland, is also working a Profectus vaccine, the unit’s commander, Col. Russell Coleman said in a Sept. 24 presentation.
At a Sept. 5 press conference in Geneva following a meeting of 200 virus experts, Marie-Paule Kieny, assistant director general of WHO, said researchers may have enough data from small human studies of new Ebola vaccines to warrant offering them to health care workers and other front-line staff caring for Ebola patients by November.
Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated details of the Defense Department's work on the Profectus vaccine. The article has been updated.