The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) and the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) have announced the formation of consortia as part of the Ebola+ program. Eight new projects will address the needs of the current epidemic, including development of a new vaccine, its production and distribution, and new diagnostics that can be used at the point of care. These projects will be a first step in the Ebola+ program, which has kicked off with a budget of EUR 215 million ($249 million) in its part to join the international effort against Ebola.
With the launch of the Ebola+ program in IMI in November 2014, the pharmaceutical industry and the European Commission joined forces to contribute in a complementary way to the international effort to tackle Ebola. The announcement for the new consortia comes before the 2015 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, which will include a discussion on global health security related to the latest battle with Ebola.
The eight projects include over 40 partners from around the world (mainly Europe, Africa, and North America) and address some of the key priorities set out by the World Health Organization in the current Ebola crisis. The projects include:
Three projects for the development of Ebola vaccines. There are currently no licensed vaccines for Ebola. However, there are a number of vaccine candidates in development, and three projects in the new IMI Ebola+ program will generate the data needed to assess the safety and immunogenicity of different vaccine candidates and the level and duration of protection they actually offer against the disease.
One project for scaling up vaccine manufacture. The Ebola vaccines can only be manufactured in facilities with an appropriate biosafety rating. Relatively few manufacturers have the biosafety rating required for the manufacture of Ebola vaccines, and this is slowing down the production of vaccine candidates. This project will establish a platform capable of rapidly producing sufficient quantities of the vaccine while adhering to stringent quality and safety requirements. In parallel, this project will create additional vaccine production capacity to allow for the rapid preparation of large quantities of vaccines.
One project for compliance with vaccine regimens. For a vaccine to have a real impact on an outbreak, high levels of vaccination coverage are essential. In addition, for lasting protection, two doses of the vaccine may be needed. However, the stigma surrounding Ebola, coupled with a suspicion of vaccines in general, could deter many people from getting vaccinated. This project will investigate innovative ways of promoting compliance, for example by using mobile phones. The project will also use these technologies to raise awareness and acceptance of vaccination campaigns.
Three projects relating to rapid diagnostic tests. EFPIA notes that there is an urgent need for fast, reliable tests to determine if someone is infected with Ebola or not. Three projects will pave the way for rapid diagnostic tests capable of delivering reliable results at the point of care in as little as 15 minutes.
The grant agreements for some projects selected under the first call of the some Ebola+ program are still being finalized. Final information on all selected projects, including full budget details, will be published once the grant agreements have been signed.