138th WHO EB - Briefing on R&D Blueprint- Agenda Item 9.1
In spite of unprecedented collaboration to accelerate research and development (R&D) of new tools for Ebola, the scientific harvest, two years after the start of the outbreak in West Africa, is relatively meagre.
Many clinical studies started too late after the peak of the epidemic has passed. The delay was due to a general lack of R&D ‘preparedness’ for Ebola: for example, VSV-EBOV, a very promising vaccine, had not yet been tested in healthy volunteers when the outbreak started although the animal studies were finalized more than four years earlier; the availability of only a few grams of ZMapp, a very promising therapeutic, precluded its prompt evaluation in a clinical trial in the field. Major dissensions between stakeholders on key issues such as trial designs also slowed down the research.
Now that the Ebola outbreak has come to an end, the lessons and shortcomings of the Ebola response should not be repeated with respect to other emerging pathogens with epidemic potential. Several initiatives have been launched by some governments, research institutes, pharmaceutical companies and philanthropic foundations. The most advanced, holistic and comprehensive proposal is the one supported by WHO under the name “A Blueprint for Research and Development” and has been developed by the Secretariat with R&D stakeholders, including MSF, since December 2015.