Johnson & Johnson has started human trials of its new Ebola vaccine, which is intended to stop the spread of the epidemic that has already killed thousands of people in west Africa.
Trials are taking place on 72 people at Oxford University, and similar tests will soon get going in the US and three African countries unaffected by the outbreak.
Previous tests have been restricted to animals, but have given very positive results – when monkeys were given samples of the vaccine they became completely immune to Ebola.
Volunteers will receive an initial injection, followed be an additional booster dose one or two month later. Trial organisers have stressed that the vaccine could not cause anyone to become infected with Ebola.
This trial is about testing the vaccine's safety, but if all goes according to plan a larger phase 2 trial could take place in Africa and Europe within three months.
Ultimately, the plan is to make the vaccine available for use in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone by the middle of 2015. By the end of the year, Johnson & Johnson says it could provide two million doses of the vaccine.
THE RACE TO CREATE A VACCINE
There has been intense pressure on pharmaceutical companies to develop a cure for the disease over the last six months.
GSK is the other firm in the running to achieve this target first – it carried out a similar trial of its own Ebola vaccine at Oxford's Jenner Institute in September last year.
The results of GSK's trials are due to be released later this month, and the pharmaceutical company hopes to offer the vaccine to health workers in Ebola affected countries soon after that.