Dec 23 (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded contracts worth a total of about $43 million to NewLink Genetics Corp and GlaxoSmithKline Plc for faster development of two Ebola vaccines.
Under a $30 million contract, NewLink's unit BioProtection Systems Corp will conduct clinical trials to determine the lowest dose at which its vaccine generates an effective immune response, the HHS said. (http://1.usa.gov/1xJcwHi)
NewLink is developing the vaccine, rVSV-ZEBOV-GP, with U.S. drugmaker Merck & Co Inc, which bought worldwide commercial rights for it in November.
The contract includes an option for additional funding of $41 million.
The HHS said the contract with GSK was worth $12.9 million with an option to raise the amount by $16,000.
GSK will establish and validate the initial material to start the manufacturing of its vaccine, ChAd3 EBO-Z. The company will also raise its manufacturing capacity to millions of doses from thousands currently.
The death toll from Ebola in the three West Africa countries hardest hit by the epidemic has risen to 7,518 out of 19,340 confirmed cases recorded there to date, the World Health Organization said on Monday. (Reporting by Narottam Medhora in Bengaluru; Editing by Kirti Pandey)