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GSK Stops Making Ebola Vaccines, Passes Production to US Drugmaker

British drug manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline is giving up its work on creating three strong vaccines against the dangerous Ebola and Marburg viruses, regardless of a continuing Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

While Ebola is a lethal and contagious disorder, it is also nonetheless relatively uncommon, generating the active market for a vaccine sporadic and very likely unprofitable. This poses a dilemma for drug firms: With no actual prospect of a financial return, can they justify the funding in costly development and trials.

GSK’s vaccine candidates – two designed to guard against Ebola and one against the Marburg – will be passed to the Sabin Vaccine Institute in Washington, D.C., the British drug manufacturer mentioned in a statement. There is no monetary element to the deal, a spokesman said.

The transfer deal will see Sabin continue to make the candidate vaccines, one of which – a possible Ebola shot known as ChAd3 – has been via mid-stage, Phase II, trials in Africa and will possibly be used to halt or limit future Ebola outbreaks.

GSK had kept its Ebola vaccine work on hold after it was unable to improve the product through the final stage, or Phase III, medical trials toward the end of the 2014-16 epidemic, because of a dwindling number of Ebola cases.

U.S. drug manufacturer Merck and Johnson & Johnson are also making potential vaccines for Ebola, and have made more progress with them than GSK had in medical trials.

The Merck shot, generally known as VSV EBOV, is currently being used in the continuing Ebola epidemic in Congo, which was in July declared a world health emergency by the World Health Organization.

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