At last, West Africa could have its first indigenous vaccine for Lassa fever.
INOVIO, a biotechnology company, has announced that a Phase 1B clinical trial for INO-4500, its DNA vaccine candidate for Lassa fever, has begun in Ghana.
The company said in a statement that the first participant has received the dose of the vaccine, which experts have described as a breakthrough.
The clinical trial, which is taking place at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) in Accra, is the first to be conducted for a Lassa fever vaccine in West Africa.
INOVIO said the INO-4500 is also the first vaccine candidate for Lassa fever to enter human trials.
There is currently no licensed vaccine for Lassa fever, which has been endemic in parts of the subregion including Nigeria, where the virus has killed 736 in the last four years.
Kwadwo Ansah Koram, director of NMIMR at the University of Ghana, said he hopes the trial “will be only the beginning of a long and fruitful collaboration in the fight against infectious diseases”.
According to INOVIO, the trial will enrol approximately 220 adult participants who are between 18 and 50 years old, “with the primary endpoints of evaluating safety and immunogenicity in an African population”.
“The dosing regimen involves two vaccinations at 0 and 28 days with either 1.0 mg or 2.0 mg dosing levels. In addition to providing valuable insights on the INO-4500 safety and immunogenicity profile, this trial will inform dose selection for subsequent Phase 2 studies in West Africa,” the company said.
Chikwe Ihekweazu, director-general of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), described the development as a “fantastic news”.
“The urgency of now. A vaccine for #Lassafever. We have worked very hard with @WHO @CEPIvaccines @acegid @BNITM_de and many others to put this on the #globalhealth agenda. We will #keeppushing,” Ihekweazu said via his Twitter handle.