Axel Lehrer

University of Hawaiʻi vaccine researcher Axel Lehrer, has received a $6.35 million grant to test whether the Ebola vaccine formula he has developed will protect against two additional viruses in the same family.

The Ebola vaccine that UH has created is “heat stable,” which means it does not need refrigeration, and could be easily transported and stored in the hottest climates on Earth, like Africa, where the deadly viruses have struck in the past. Expanding the heat-stable vaccine to work against all three of the related viruses could speed up the protection of health workers and others as soon as an outbreak occurs. The first inoculations could occur even before public health experts know which exact type of hemorrhagic fever has struck.

The John A. Burns School of Medicine is partnering with two biomedical companies—Honolulu-based Hawaiʻi Biotech, Inc. and New Jersey-based Soligenex, Inc.—to develop the potentially trivalent (works on all three viruses) vaccine. Other partners include the University of Texas Medical Branch and BIOQUAL, Inc.

“Filoviruses are endemic in areas of the world where the power supply can be uncertain, making a thermostable Ebola vaccine particularly valuable,” said Lehrer, an assistant professor the Department of Tropical Medicine, Microbiology and Pharmacology. “We are delighted to have been awarded this grant to further develop a thermostabilized subunit vaccine for Ebola and look forward to continuing our collaboration with Soligenix, and Hawaiʻi Biotech, Inc.”

Lehrer believes that when the new work funded by this grant is completed, the next step would be to obtain funding (perhaps a combination of public funding and corporate funding) to move the vaccine into a clinical trial.

With funding, and the necessary drug regulatory approvals, he believes his heat-stable vaccine candidate could be ready to be on the market within five to ten years.

For more go to the John A. Burns School of Medicine website.

—By Tina Shelton