The first batch of GlaxoSmithKline's (GSK) experimental Ebola vaccine has been shipped to West Africa and is expected to arrive in Liberia later today.

The shipment, containing 300 vials of the candidate vaccine, will be used to kick off the first large-scale efficacy trial of Ebola vaccines in the coming weeks, the British drugmaker said. Researchers hope to enroll up to 30,000 people in the trial, a third of whom would get GSK's candidate vaccine. Healthcare workers will be among those to be vaccinated.

The candidate Ebola vaccine, ChAd3-EBOV, was developed by the Vaccine Research Center of NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Okairos, a biotechnology company acquired by GSK in 2013. According to the company, it uses a type of chimpanzee cold virus, known as chimpanzee adenovirus type 3 (ChAd3), as a carrier to deliver benign genetic material from the Zaire strain of the Ebola virus.

In October 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) said hundreds of thousands of doses of Ebola vaccine were expected to be ready by mid-2015. ChAd3-EBOV, for which a clinical study was launched the same month in Mali, was one of the candidates.

GSK is working closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to assist with trials in other affected countries such as Sierra Leone and Guinea. The company also plans to initiate Phase II safety trials in non-affected West African countries.

“The initial Phase I data we have seen are encouraging and give us confidence to progress to the next phases of clinical testing, which will involve the vaccination of thousands of volunteers, including frontline healthcare workers,” Dr. Moncef Slaoui, chairman of global vaccines at GSK, said. “If the candidate vaccine is able to protect these people, as we hope it will, it could significantly contribute to efforts to bring this epidemic under control and prevent future outbreaks.”

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