NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—When Johnson & Johnson (J&J) announced on September 4 that it was accelerating the development of a vaccine program against Ebola, neither of the two Texas healthcare workers had yet contracted the disease.
At that time, J&J said that it wanted to help stop the virus that has overwhelmed West Africa.
"The decision to accelerate the program is based on the fact that it is such a catastrophic situation in West Africa," said Dr. Paul Stoffels, Johnson & Johnson's chief scientific officer and world-wide chair.”
On Wednesday President Obama was scheduled to appear at an Italian restaurant in Union Township, for a fundraising event hosted by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
However, according to published reports, Obama cancelled the trip to work on the government’s response to Ebola.
The vaccine that J&J is developing would be used to prevent Ebola from attacking people who don’t already have the disease. This vaccine is being developed by the J&J subsidiary Crucell, a biotechnology company headquartered in the Netherlands.
Earlier this month the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized J&J competitor Chimerix Inc., based in Durham, North Carolina, to use one of its drugs on an emergency investigational basis against Ebola.
This is the drug that was used to treat Thomas Duncan who came to the U.S. from Liberia at the end of September. Duncan’s case represents the first Ebola case to be diagnosed in the U.S.
Chimerex officials indicated in a press release that the application for the drug was granted due to physicians treating Ebola requesting the drug.
“Based on in vitro data from work conducted by the [Centers for Disease Control] and the National Institutes of Health suggesting brincidofovir’s activity against Ebola, we are hopeful that brincidofovir may offer a potential treatment for [the] Ebola virus disease during this outbreak,” Chimerix Chief Executive Dr. M. Michelle Berry said in a statement.
The vaccine that Crucell is developing is a combination vaccine, consisting of two components: one from Crucell and the other from a Denmark-based biotech company, Bavarian Nordic.
It is hoped that the vaccine will protect healthy individuals from contracting the Zaire strain. The Zaire strain is said to be causing the current Ebola outbreak.
As NBToday reported last Sunday, an NBC reporter and former J&J vice president of consumer education was placed under a mandatory quarantine in Princeton last week.
And according to a recent Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, more than one-third of NJ residents are paying "very close" attention to Ebola news, while an additional 40 percent are following the story "somewhat closely."
The poll also found that, despite extensive media coverage, residents of N.J. are uncertain about Ebola's transmission and treatment.
"As in national polls, Garden Staters are worried about Ebola, but many do not know basic facts," said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University, in a news release.
"Within the countless hours of media coverage, some hysterical voices are feeding perceptions that Ebola is a huge threat to the US. But, so far it is not even close to the threat of death from the flu, which statistics show kills from 3,000 to 49,000 Americans every year."