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Connecticut Company Ships Ebola Vaccine to NIH for Testing

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Huntstock
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Thinkstock
Protein Sciences will ship its ebola vaccine to the National Institutes of Health for testing next week.

Meriden-based Protein Sciences has completed work on a preliminary Ebola vaccine, and will ship its creation to the National Institutes of Health on Monday.

The vaccine works by targeting a protein intrinsic to the Ebola virus, not by growing the Ebola virus itself.

"We never actually handle the infectious agent," said Clifton McPherson, vice president of product development at Protein Sciences. "We've never had actual Ebola virus here, just like we don't grow influenza virus to make FluBlok, our flu vaccine."

McPherson said the Ebola virus has a "coat protein" on its surface and that's what his company is replicating for its vaccine. The idea is to inject that protein,  and only that protein, into a patient to build up an immune response to Ebola.

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Credit Cynthia Goldsmith / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
A colorized transmission electron micrograph of an Ebola virus virion.

"The Ebola vaccines that are currently in clinical trials are actually quite different," said McPherson. Those vaccines use a live virus that's not harmful to humans to "carry" the Ebola protein into a patient. "They're actually causing the production of the [glycoprotein] inside the bodies of the people receiving the vaccine," he said. "Then they mount an immune response to that protein. Whereas what we're doing is delivering that protein directly."

The vials will be shipped to to an NIH facility in Maryland for animal testing. If the vaccine proves itself against the live Ebola virus, McPherson said there could eventually be human clinical trials. 

Patrick Skahill is a reporter at Connecticut Public. He covers science and the environment. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached by phone at 860-275-7297 or by email: pskahill@ctpublic.org.
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