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The Fulbright Award to ebola researcher John-Arne Røttingen

The Fulbright Award for best article in 2016 goes to a major study of the effect of a new Ebola vaccine used during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014–2015.

John-Arne Røttingen

John-Arne Røttingen at the price award at The Norwegian Nobel Institute on June 8. Photo: Kevin McGuiness

The study has investigated more than 7000 persons who were at high risk of infection with the Ebola virus. Preliminary results show that the vaccine is 100% effective against the Ebola virus.

The article ‘Efficacy and effectiveness of an rVSV-vectored vaccine expressing Ebola surface glycoprotein: interim results from the Guinea ring vaccination cluster-randomised trial’ was published in The Lancet in 2015. This is one of the world’s most prestigious medical journals. The results attracted widespread international attention in the medical communities.

‘This article will be key to future research on Ebola and other future epidemics , and will stand as a prime example of how a public health study should be undertaken in a country that is going through an epidemic’ – The academic committee of the Fulbright Award.

Research at record-breaking speed

The process from research trials to results has proceeded at what in a research context is record-breaking speed. It is most unusual for vaccine testing to take such a short time – or to provide such good results. John-Arne Røttingen played a key role in the rapid initiation of the trials.

He tells us that the vaccine itself, on the other hand, had already existed for many years since being developed at the Canadian Institute of Public Health, but it had only been tested on monkeys. When the Ebola epidemic bloke out, a long time elapsed again before a coordinated research and development effort involving parallel vaccination was initiated.

‘It was following a meeting with WHO, after which we established a working group, that we really decided to go for this,’ he says. ‘The high-level collaboration has been completely crucial to get this off the ground,’ Røttingen explains.

Much advice has been obtained from field workers before and during the project, as part of a strategy to establish trust before the trials were initiated. Therefore, the studies have been undertaken only by field workers who speak the language and understand and respect the people they meet.

Four suited gentlemen
The academic committee of the Fulbright Award and award winner. From the left: Niels Nagelhus Schia (NUPI), John-Arne Røttingen, Bjørn Erik Mørk (UiO) og Kristian Åtland (FFI). Photo: Kevin McGuiness

 

By Anbjørg Kolaas and Christina Heesch
Published June 13, 2016 9:44 AM - Last modified Mar. 15, 2019 10:18 AM