In the race to develop an Ebola vaccine, little NewLink Genetics has been in the shadow of pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).
Both companies have rushed experimental vaccines into small, early-stage trials. Hopes are high that the vaccines can be ready for large efficacy trials in hard-hit West Africa in January—and if they work, for real-world use in the spring. GSK’s efforts have received extensive media attention, and, with its substantial manufacturing capacity and experience, the mammoth U.K.-based company is widely assumed to be in the lead. In contrast, NewLink, a cancer drug company based in Ames, Iowa, with just 120 employees, has until recently avoided media coverage and drawn criticism for delaying the launch of its studies.
But a different picture emerged after NewLink broke its media silence following a high-level meeting on Ebola vaccines held by the World Health Organization on 23 October. At the meeting, NewLink executives said that, under a best-case scenario, the company might have 12 million doses of vaccine by April. That number would far outstrip GSK’s estimate of 230,000 doses by that date.