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An Austin Lab Tries To Create An Ebola Vaccine

A team of scientists isolated Amber Vinson's antibodies from her blood. They used those antibodies to create a vaccine, which is now being tested.

Dallas faced an unprecedented public health scare in the fall of 2014 when a Liberian national was diagnosed with the Ebola virus. KERA is exploring lessons learned – and taking a deeper look at what happened last year – in a new series called "Surviving Ebola."

Explore the KERA digital project here. There’s a timeline of Ebola-related events, voices of those most affected by the virus, and much more.

One of the stories focuses on efforts in Austin to develop an Ebola vaccine.

An Austin biotech company made headlines when it took blood from Dallas nurse Amber Vinson to develop an Ebola vaccine. It sounded simple, but XBiotech learned that creating a vaccine for a mysterious disease isn’t easy.

XBiotech specializes in isolating natural antibodies, which are blood proteins that fight foreign substances in the body. So when company president John Simard learned about the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, he had to do something.

Simard went there, but he ran into a major roadblock.

“I realized it was very difficult for us to operate there,” he says. “There’s not much infrastructure. In fact, I was very surprised at how little infrastructure there was. And I didn’t see that we actually as a company could work there.”

Simard says he came back defeated. But then there was an opportunity: Ebola was in Dallas.

Read the rest of the story here.

About 'Surviving Ebola'

On Wednesday at 2 p.m. on KERA 90.1 FM, explore what happened in Dallas – and the lessons hospitals and governments learned – in “Surviving Ebola,” a KERA News special.

The hour-long special also airs Friday at 7 p.m. on 90.1 FM.

You can also listen to it here.