Ebola Vaccine Candidate: GSK and Partners

For the most recent information and further details on GSK and its partners’ contribution to the fight against Ebola, including up-to-date information on partners and countries involved, please visit their website.

Partnership objectives

Advance development of early stage Ebola vaccine candidate.

The 2014 Ebola Outbreak in West Africa has involved major urban as well as rural areas. The 2014 Ebola Outbreak in West Africa has involved major urban as well as rural areas. Copyright Wellcome Trust

What are the health needs and challenges?

The global health community is deeply concerned by the outbreak of Ebola in west Africa and its consequences on the health systems and the population of the countries most affected – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Ebola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, is a severe, often fatal illness in humans. The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission. The average EVD case fatality rate is around 50%. Case fatality rates have varied from 25% to 90% in past outbreaks. The first EVD outbreaks occurred in remote villages in Central Africa, near tropical rainforests, but the 2014 outbreak in west Africa has involved major urban as well as rural areas.

Historically, the number of people affected annually and the overall disease burden of Ebola is – in comparison to other diseases such as malaria or HIV – small and outbreaks tend to be sporadic and quickly controlled. Perhaps for this reason, compared to the focus given to the WHO’s 17 neglected tropical diseases, and malaria, HIV and TB which also affect poor countries, Ebola has not been prioritised by the international community as an area for research and vaccine development until now. Therefore no licensed anti-viral treatment or vaccine are currently available so far against this terrible disease.

Following the significant outbreak of Ebola in west Africa  in 2014, the WHO has developed a comprehensive road map including measures against disease spread, disease diagnosis and care, new health centres, social mobilisation, and safe burials, as well as fast-tracking access to experimental treatments and vaccines.  

Description of partnership activities and how they address needs and challenges

With the Ebola crisis in West Africa continuing, GSK is working closely with the World Health Organization (WHO), regulators and other partners to respond to the outbreak, to accelerate development of its investigational Ebola vaccine and to ramp up production as quickly as possible.

Through the acquisition of a Swiss/Italian biotechnology company, Okairos, in May 2013, GSK acquired a pre-clinical vaccine candidate for Ebola, (including the Zaire strain responsible for the current outbreak) which had been co-developed by Okairos and the US National Institutes of Health’s Vaccine Research Center (VRC). In 2015, the first batch of GSK’s vaccine was shipped to west Africa, containing 300 vials of the candidate vaccine.  Currently, the vaccine is still in a trial phase and the extent of its effectiveness is yet to be seen. One of the challenges faced is how to scale up the production of the vaccines without slowing down the production of other life-saving vaccines that are important for public health. 

As part of an international initiative, funding from partners that include Wellcome Trust, the UK Government, the Medical Research Council, GAVI and the BMGF  aims to help accelerate development of the vaccine candidate in response to the WHO declared Public Health Emergency and GSK is supporting this accelerated development process. This Ebola outbreak is an unusual and rapidly changing situation with a unique risk/benefit scenario requiring a unique response that needs to be guided by the WHO and others. 

GSK is also contributing to the overall humanitarian effort and on-going efforts to strengthen healthcare infrastructure in the most affected countries. 


The R&D Challenges in tackling Ebola

Partnership information

Company(ies) GlaxoSmithKline

Partner(s) UK Government, UK Medical Research Council, US National Institutes of Health (NIH), Wellcome Trust, World Health Organization (WHO)

Type of Partner(s) Government, IGOs, NGOs

Therapeutic Focus Neglected Tropical Diseases

Disease(s) Ebola

Program Type(s) Availability of Treatment - Emergency Aid, Prevention Programs - Vaccines, Research & Development - Development of Treatments

Targeted Population(s) Health professionals, People with low income

Region(s) Europe & Central Asia, North America, Sub-Saharan Africa

Number of Countries 6

Country(ies) Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, United Kingdom, United States of America

Start Date 2014

More information GSK Contribution to Fight against Ebola

Anticipated completion date Ongoing

« ...We are encouraged by progress so far and will do the best we can, along with WHO and our partners, to speed up development and explore ways in which the vaccine could contribute to the control of this or future Ebola outbreaks. »

Dr Moncef Slaoui, Chairman of Global R&D and Vaccines at GSK