An emergency response – supporting the most advanced vaccine and treatment candidates
Currently, there is no specific treatment or vaccine available against Ebola, nor a rapid diagnostic test that can be deployed in countries with weak health systems.
To address this urgent need, the EU is boosting its investment in Ebola research aiming at further achieving life-changing results.
|June 2014||Ongoing EU research projects begin to work on Ebola|
|September 2014||European Commission mobilises €24.4 million for emergency Ebola research|
|November 2014||Innovative Medicines Initiative launches Ebola+ call for €215 million|
|December 2014||European Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) launches a call for diagnostics for poverty-related neglected diseases, including Ebola
European Commission organises meeting of global Ebola research funders in Brussels (11 December)
|February 2015||EU-funded project REACTION reports that their treatment reduces mortality by half (from 30% to 15%) in early stage of Ebola|
On 8 August 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Ebola outbreak in West Africa to be an 'extraordinary event and a public health risk to other States', and called for 'a coordinated international response […] to stop and reverse the international spread of Ebola. Furthermore, on 5 September 2014 the WHO urged the international community to find ways to speed up research into new treatments and vaccines against Ebola.
In response to this, in September 2014, the European Commission through its research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020, quickly mobilised €24.4 million and immediate work on the funded projects began already as early as 7 October 2014.
Five projects are being funded, including a trial of the most advanced vaccine against Ebola being developed by GSK (EbolaVac, with a European Commission financial contribution of €15.1 million). This vaccine is already being tested in humans, with very promising results being seen so far. Other projects are studying the potential therapeutic effect on Ebola patients of an existing treatment against influenza (REACTION, using favipiravir), plasma from survivors (Ebola_Tx), and serum from antibody-producing horses (IF-Ebola). A further project is working on the transmission of the virus and the clinical importance of its mutations (EVIDENT).
- State of play of EU-funded Ebola research projects (Updated 10 August, 2015)
These projects have already started producing results. For instance, the REACTION project has recently announced preliminary results that show that favipiravir, an anti-influenza drug produced by the Japanese firm Toyoma Chemical, reduces mortality by half (from 30% to 15%) in patients with early Ebola disease. If these results are further confirmed by the ongoing clinical trial, it will be the first time that treatment against Ebola will be deployed during the current outbreak.
- Statement by Commissioner Moedas on the preliminary favipiravir results
Joining forces with industry
€215 million of research funding for Ebola and related viruses has been mobilised by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), a partnership between the European Commission and the pharmaceutical industry in Europe. €114 million comes from Horizon 2020, and the remaining €101 million from the pharmaceutical companies involved in the projects. Work on these projects began already in January 2015, involving large-scale clinical trials of new vaccines in the Ebola affected countries, as well as vaccine production and the development of fast diagnostic tests. In addition, further calls for proposals are being prepared to further strengthen research on Ebola.
A coordinated global action
The scale of the Ebola outbreak means that no one can tackle it alone as this crisis requires a coordinated global response. For this reason, the European Commission, together with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, organised a meeting of the key funders of Ebola research on 11 December 2014. This meeting saw discussions on the gaps in current research, communication between Ebola projects, and how to best use resources in a post-outbreak scenario.
Furthermore, the European Commission, together with funding organisations from other countries, has established the Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Preparedness (GloPID-R). Since infectious diseases do not respect borders and spread rapidly, GloPID-R aims to improve the global collaboration of funders that is paramount to the establishment of a rapid and effective research response. The goal of GloPID-R is to mount an effective research response within 48 hours of an outbreak.
On 3 March 2015, a high-level event – Ebola "From Emergency to Recovery" – was held in Brussels. At this conference, the co-chairs (EU, UN, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, the African Union and ECOWAS) commended the unprecedented effort to develop diagnostic tests, vaccines, and treatments against Ebola . They acknowledged that a coordinated research effort both in the inter-epidemic periods and in emergency situations is a crucial element of preparedness, and that this will need to be strengthened.
- Global overview of Ebola research 536 KB (Updated 11 March, 2015)
Partnership with Africa
The European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) is a collaborative effort between European and Sub-Saharan African countries to develop and test promising new medical interventions for a range of poverty-related diseases such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis.The EDCTP recently added Ebola to the list of diseases that could be funded, enabling cutting edge treatments for the disease to receive some of the more than €2 billion in funding that is available over the course of the programme. For instance, a call for diagnostics for poverty-related diseases, including Ebola, closed on 2 March.
Some promising results from ongoing FP7 projects
In addition to these newly launched initiatives, the European Commission is funding several ongoing research projects that are addressing Ebola under the EU's Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Development (FP7). For example the project ANTIGONE discovered how the Ebola virus causes damage to blood vessels walls and contributes to the internal bleeding characteristic of the disease. This finding could clear the way to produce a new treatment for Ebola in the future and could also help scientists to develop treatments for other diseases that operate the same way.
Other FP7 projects PREDEMICS, PREPARE, and TELL ME are delivering results on the prevention of emerging zoonotic viruses with pandemic potential, streamlining of Europe’s clinical research response, and improving risk communication during infectious disease crises respectively.
In the News
- Fact Sheet: EU response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa (3 March 2015)
- Commissioner Moedas welcomes encouraging results of REACTION project using 'favipiravir' (24 February 2015)
- EU research efforts at front line of fight against Ebola (16 January 2015)
- €280 million to tackle Ebola under a joint EU-pharmaceutical industry initiative (6 November 2014)
- European Union to boost Ebola research with €24.4 million (23 October 2014)
- European Commission – Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection – Ebola News
- JIKI: The story of hope (in French with English subtitles)
- European Union – EU response to Ebola
- European Commission – Public health – Ebola
- European Commission – Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection – Ebola in West Africa
- European Commission – Horizon 2020 – Health, Demographic Change and Wellbeing
- IMI – Innovative Medicines Initiative
- EDCTP – European Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership
- WHO Ebola site – for healthcare professionals, partners and the general public
Directorate-General for Research and Innovation
Unit E.3 – Fighting Infectious Diseases and Global Epidemics
Ms. Line Matthiessen, Head of Unit, tel.: +32 2 29 52853