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Ebola Vaccine Challenge: Motorbikes and Kerosene Fridges

Deep inside a drug manufacturing plant in an industrial district of suburban Rome, vials of Ebola vaccine sit in freezers, chilled to minus 70 degrees Celsius with the help of liquid nitrogen. Much warmer -- say, the temperature in outdated kerosene-fueled fridges in some West African villages -- risks destroying the drug.

Refrigeration is just one of the myriad challenges for GlaxoSmithKline Plc and other companies racing to create vaccines to fight Ebola. They’re facing issues ranging from packaging the drug in tiny glass vials for distribution, to assembling fleets of trucks and motorbikes to transport it along potholed roads, to monitoring subjects in a Swiss lakeside city to test the vaccine ultimately destined for villages in the African jungle.