By John Vandermosten, CFA
GeoVax (GOVX) recently had its Ebola Vaccine Study published in the Atlas of Science. The article, entitled Single Dose Protection Against Ebola Virus Challenge, highlights the importance of an Ebola vaccine that can be stored at room temperature and minimizes severe adverse events. GeoVax’s GEO-EM01 has demonstrated these characteristics in preclinical studies. It has also provided 100% protection in a rhesus macaque animal model inoculated with the vaccine as compared to a 75% death rate in unvaccinated animals when exposed to Ebola Virus.
The importance of an effective and durable vaccine is critical given the periodic emergence of Ebola. Just this weekend, a case of the disease was identified in a new city in Congo, emphasizing a growing need to contain the outbreak and 1,000 cases were reported. One of the downsides of the current vaccine being used in the “ring vaccination” strategy is the side effect profile for rVSV-ZEBOV. Events reported include mild to moderate fatigue, chills, headache and muscle pain which makes it harder to vaccinate 100% of the intended population. Especially when it is difficult to convince those receiving the vaccine that a threat exists. The vaccine currently being used to address the Ebola outbreak in Congo labeled rVSV-ZEBOV requires storage at a temperature of -80° C, which, creates difficulties for staging in many of the regions in Africa where the disease has emerged. GeoVax’s GEO-EM01, on the other hand, is stable in both liquid and lyophilized forms, allowing for long-term storage at refrigerator or room temperature respectively.
Pre-clinical testing for GeoVax’s GEO-EM01 (aka MVA-VLP) has demonstrated success in rhesus macaques challenged with a lethal dose of Ebola virus. Three groups of four animals were evaluated in the experiment described in the article. Two of the groups were administered a dose of GEO-EM01 and the third was only given the Modified Vaccinia Ankara (MVA) vector without the Ebola virus protein inserts. Subsequent to the vaccination, the animals were exposed to a lethal Ebola challenge. As illustrated in the following exhibit (panel a), all of the animals vaccinated with GEO-EM01 survived, while three of the four animals that only received MVA vector died. For animals that had been vaccinated, there was no Ebola virus detected in blood (panel b). The graphs in panels a and b show the survival and viral load in the prime (red and blue) and control (black) groups.
View Exhibit I - Survival of Vaccinated Animals and Viral Load
Future areas of discovery for GeoVax’s MVA-EBOV will seek to determine how rapidly the vaccine can provide protection from Ebola and the duration of the protection.
We see GeoVax’s portfolio of vaccines as providing a tremendous public benefit to heath. The company is developing a portfolio of products that can address some of the most prevalent and deadly diseases that exist throughout the globe. The MVA-VLP platform has distinguished itself due to its effectiveness and should be employed as part of a vaccination strategy and study in outbreak areas.
View Exhibit II - GeoVax Pipeline
GeoVax has tremendous potential to benefit public health with its portfolio of vaccines. While not as exciting as some of the headline grabbing advances in immuno-oncology, gene therapy or rare disease, the vaccines that the company is developing can potentially cure and prevent disease in millions of persons around the world. This includes the 40 million with HIV and the pandemic potential of Ebola, Zika, and other highly communicable diseases.
Value to investors can come from increased understanding of the threat potential from the diseases being investigated by GeoVax. Future partnerships and government grants can help advance the existing programs to a stage where they can be commercialized and achieve the health benefit that all stakeholders seek.
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By John Vandermosten, CFA