Ella Foundation claims breakthrough in Ebola vaccine research

Hyderabad-based Ella Foundation, which has taken up indigenous research for finding a potential vaccine for the deadly Ebola virus, has claimed success in preliminary vaccine trials on the virus that affected thousands in Central Africa, causing heavy fatalities.

Ella Foundation, which is founded by the promoters of Bharat Biotech, said it has completed preliminary animal (using mice) experiments of the virus `glycoprotein', with the targeted adenovirus, and the "immune response results have been good."

The foundation said it would follow this up with toxicology tests before going for clinical trials involving human beings.

The foundation said it used adenovirus (which causes common respiratory problems in humans) because the use of the samples from Ebola virus itself could create problems.

Krishna Ella, who started the foundation with his wife Suchitra Ella, has said that the foundation has completed preliminary studies on an Ebola vaccine.

''We have found that mice have developed anti-bodies in the animal trials. It is up to the government to take up the research further,'' he said.

Addressing a press conference on Monday, Krishna Ella said that India lagged behind in starting research on the deadly virus, while the US, European Union and China have invested significantly to find a vaccine.

''The vaccine candidate at the foundation laboratory is a human adenovirus engineered to contain an optimised synthetic gene based on viruses from the 2014 Ebola outbreak. Its platform uses controlled production of the glycoprotein,'' he said.

Foundation's lead scientist Nagendra Hegde, who led the experiment, said that the ribbon-like structure of the virus sports a coat dotted with spike-like proteins called glycoptrotein. ''Development of immune responses against this protein holds the key in protecting people against the disease that killed hundreds in Africa,'' he said.

Multinational pharma majors, including GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck and Novavax are currently spearheading research to develop Ebola vaccine, with committed budgets of close to $500 million, Hegde pointed out.

Ella Foundation, which has won the Gates Foundation Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) grant for fostering innovation in global health research, feels that it is beyond its means to further the research. ''The government must step in to use the results to take it to the further level, ie, human clinical trials,'' Krishna Ella said.

Ella Foundation had earlier helped Bharat Biotech in the development of H1N1 pandemic influenza in the early stage.