Data Suggest IBT Investigational Ebola Vaccine Would Protect Wild Apes
Integrated Biotherapeutics (IBT) and its partners have published what is believed to be a novel conservation strategy in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences (PNAS), wherein captive chimpanzees are vaccinated against Ebola virus to establish vaccine safety and immunogenicity in wild apes. The work represents the first time captive chimpanzees have been used for a trial that can benefit their own species rather than humans.
This vaccine is intended to protect wild gorilla and chimpanzee populations where infectious diseases, and Ebola virus in particular, are now recognized as a major threat on par with poaching and habitat loss. Chimpanzees are Endangered and gorillas are Critically Endangered, giving rise to ethical concerns about vaccine testing in wild animals. The current study did not challenge vaccinated apes with Ebola, but determined the vaccine was immunogenic and likely to be efficacious by comparing immune responses to those of macaques for which survival data is available. Further, vaccinated chimpanzee antibodies were able to protect mice from Ebola in lab tests.
These results suggest that IBT's vaccine could prevent death from Ebola infection if administered to wild populations. Non-infectious virus-like particle (VLP) vaccines like IBT's may be applied more broadly in the future to protect a variety of endangered animals from an arsenal of viral diseases.
In addition to IBT, the published research was supported by contributions from the University of Louisiana Lafayette, the US Army Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, and the University of Cambridge. The work was sponsored in part by the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.