The Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) announced IAVI has been awarded $35.7 million dollars to develop a recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) vector Marburg virus candidate, called rVSVΔG-MARV-GP. IAVI licensed the Marburg virus vaccine candidate from the Public Health Agency of Canada. It has demonstrated strong protection from the deadly disease in non-human primate studies.
What is the Marburg Virus?
It is a hemorrhagic fever virus of the Filoviridae family of viruses and a member of the species Marburg Marburgvirus, genus Marburgvirus. Marburg virus (MARV) causes Marburg virus disease in humans and nonhuman primates. This is an extremely dangerous disease. The virus is transmitted by exposure to one species of fruit bats or it can be transmitted between people via body fluids through unprotected copulation and broken skin. Back in 2009, expanded clinical trials of an Ebola and Marburg vaccine commenced in Kampala, Uganda.
The CDC has classified the Marburg virus as a category A bioterrorism threat, which indicates a high-priority agent that poses a risk to national security. The reservoir host of the Marburg virus is the African fruit bat, Rousettus aegyptiacus. Fruit bats infected with Marburg do not show obvious signs of illness. IAVI Background
The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) was formed back in 1994 when the Rockefeller Foundation convened a meeting of 24 authorities on the disease in Bellagio, Italy, to determine what hampered progress toward the development of preventive HIV vaccines. Hence, IAVI was born as a vehicle to study vaccines in high-risk endeavors, such as HIV vaccine research and development.
This DTRA award builds on IAVI’s expertise in VSV vector technology that has developed a VSV HIV vaccine candidate and VSV Lassa fever vaccine candidate, which are in preclinical development.
Mark Feinberg, M.D., Ph.D., president and CEO of IAVI, said, “IAVI looks forward to applying more than a decade of our experience in viral vector vaccines to hasten the development of this viral hemorrhagic fever vaccine candidate, and we are grateful to the U.S. Department of Defense for its support of this critical work.”
The Marburg virus vaccine candidate rVSVΔG-MARV-GP is based on the same VSV platform as Merck’s Ebola Zaire virus vaccine candidate that was tested during the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak and is currently being used in the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.