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HHS investing $5.8M in Ebola vaccine Baltimore company Profectus is developing

An arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is giving $5.8 million to Baltimore company Profectus BioSciences for its efforts to develop an Ebola vaccine.

The investment comes as the southeast Baltimore biotechnology company prepares to apply to the Food and Drug Administration to begin human clinical trials. The money from HHS's Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority will go toward manufacturing a vaccine for those trials, Profectus President Jeffrey Meshulam said.

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The vaccine candidate is one of many that is advancing rapidly as health officials seek to contain an Ebola outbreak that continues to grow.

Given that just a few thousand people had died of Ebola in all recorded outbreaks since its discovery in 1976, such projects struggled to attract investment and move toward human testing. But as the current outbreak accelerates in West Africa and stokes fears in the United States, the impetus to advance experimental vaccines and treatments has grown.

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Profectus is working with researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston on a vaccine that uses a live, modified virus to deliver proteins associated with Ebola and other viruses and incite an immune response that would protect the host against the pathogens. The company plans to begin clinical trials by mid-2015, Meshulam said.

Its grant from HHS can be extended for as many as 13 months and up to $8.6 million.

A team from a University of Maryland School of Medicine center launched human trials of a different Ebola vaccine candidate in Mali on Oct. 8. That vaccine, developed at the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, uses a chimpanzee cold-like virus to deliver the Ebola proteins and build Ebola immunity.

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