With an initial investment of US$460m from the governments of Germany, Japan and Norway, plus the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust, CEPI - the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations will seek to outsmart epidemics by developing safe and effective vaccines against known infectious disease threats that could be deployed rapidly to contain outbreaks, before they become global health emergencies.
CEPI also hopes to shorten the time it takes to develop new vaccines to protect against viruses that emerge suddenly as public health threats, as Zika did recently, by capitalising on exciting developments in adaptable vaccine technology and investing in facilities that could respond quickly to previously unknown pathogens.
Today’s financial commitments mean that CEPI has raised almost half of the $1bn it needs for its first five years, and it is now calling for proposals from researchers and companies around the world to support the development of vaccines against its first target diseases.
CEPI will initially target the MERS-CoV, Lassa and Nipah viruses, which have known potential to cause serious epidemics. It aims to develop two promising vaccine candidates against each of these diseases before any epidemic, so these are available without delay if and when an outbreak begins. CEPI will also scope out potential support for vaccines against multiple strains of the Ebola and Marburg viruses, and Zika.
To achieve all these goals, CEPI will need significant additional investment, and the initial CEPI funders are calling today for other governments and philanthropic organisations to join them in helping to protect the world against future epidemics. CEPI is looking to complete its fundraising by the end of 2017.
Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway, said: “Just over a year ago 193 states adopted the Sustainable Development Goals – the roadmap for the future we want. Epidemics threaten that future. They can ruin societies on a scale only matched by wars and natural disasters. They respect no borders and don’t care if we are rich or poor. Protecting the vulnerable is protecting ourselves. This is why we all must work together to be better prepared – and why my Government is fully committed to ensure that CEPI achieves its mission.”
Bill Gates, Co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said: “Ebola and Zika showed that the world is tragically unprepared to detect local outbreaks and respond quickly enough to prevent them from becoming global pandemics. Without investments in research and development, we will remain unequipped when we face the next threat.
“The ability to rapidly develop and deliver vaccines when new ‘unknown’ diseases emerge offers our best hope to outpace outbreaks, save lives and avert disastrous economic consequences. CEPI is a great example of how supporting innovation and R&D can help the world to address some of its most pressing health challenges.”
Dr Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust, said: “We know from Ebola, Zika and SARS that epidemics are among the significant threats we face to life, health and prosperity. Vaccines can protect us, but we’ve done too little to develop them as an insurance policy. CEPI is our chance to learn the lessons of recent tragedies, and outsmart epidemics with new vaccine defences. If others join us in supporting CEPI, we can realise our goal of creating a safer world.”
CEPI is a direct response to calls from four independent expert reports into the Ebola epidemic for a new system for stimulating the development of vaccines against epidemic threats. It was founded by the governments of India and Norway, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome and the World Economic Forum, which has played a key convening role, bringing together stakeholders at the 2016 Davos meeting and other events.
CEPI is also backed by major pharmaceutical corporations, the World Health Organization and Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders, as well as philanthropies and leading academic vaccine research groups.
The Government of India is currently finalising the level of a significant funding commitment to CEPI. In addition to financing for vaccine development that will be available through CEPI’s pooled fund, the European Commission will contribute to CEPI's objectives and plans to co-fund actions with CEPI, such as through the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI).
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Additional CEPI partner quotes
John-Arne Røttingen, CEPI interim CEO: “Today we are launching the first call for proposals from CEPI. We know there is a lot of interest from both public research organizations and large and small companies in responding to the threats of MERS, Lassa and Nipah, and we’re excited to finally be developing effective vaccines for these and other epidemic threats.”
Yasuhisa Shiozaki, Minister of Health, Labour, and Welfare, Government of Japan: “Japan has highlighted the importance of pandemic preparedness and Universal Health Coverage. I believe the CEPI will contribute to achieving them through encouraging development of vaccines.”
Professor Dr Johanna Wanka, German Federal Minister of Education and Research: “The Ebola crisis made us painfully aware of the gaps in the international health system. Prevention is the best means to ensuring healthy lives for all as set out in Agenda 2030. At the same time, a well-prepared system of crisis management must – if the situation arises – quickly contain the spread of contagious diseases. We are convinced that the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations will play a key role in the prevention of health crises and enable a quick response in case of crisis. Germany is therefore lending both financial and scientific support to CEPI.”
Carlos Moedas, EU Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation: “Recent epidemics taught the world the hard way that infectious diseases know no borders. The EU shares the CEPI objective to develop new vaccines that will help prevent and contain future epidemics, and is committed to collaborating with CEPI in joint efforts towards this goal.”
K Vijay Raghavan, Secretary of the Indian Department of Biotechnology and Chair of CEPI’s interim board: “India's partnership in CEPI signals our commitment to work with the WHO and other partners to develop and use vaccines to prevent the spread of epidemic disease. India's vaccine companies have changed vaccine accessibility and availability for routine immunisation and for campaigns globally. We are committed to continuing to support global health and ensuring access to vaccines when and where needed.”
Marie-Paule Kieny, Assistant Director-General , World Health Organization: “WHO and CEPI share the goal to research and develop safe, effective, and affordable interventions to address infections of epidemic potential. WHO, through the R&D Blueprint for Action against Epidemics, will support the Coalition in several ways, including by providing normative guidance on priorities, by working with governments to streamline regulations, and by ensuring that policies will support public health and equitable access to affordable vaccines.”
Dr Joanne Liu, International President of Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders:
“There is an urgent need for new vaccines, diagnostics and treatments to prevent and treat emerging infections with epidemic potential. For new vaccines to be game changers, they must be developed and tested before outbreaks hit and made accessible and affordable for all communities in times of health crisis. These are the conditions that will determine CEPI’s success and ensure this new initiative saves lives.”
Sir Andrew Witty, CEO of GSK said: “Finding better ways to anticipate and prepare for future health threats is one of the greatest challenges of our time. We strongly support the creation of CEPI and its focus on vaccines development as a solution to protecting against infectious disease outbreaks. GSK has developed a proposal for a Biopreparedness Organisation, a dedicated and permanent facility that would use our scientific expertise and technologies to develop vaccines that could be deployed to protect citizens in the world’s poorest countries against future epidemics and pandemics. This facility would operate on a cost coverage basis to help maximise sustainable access. We stand ready to partner with CEPI to advance epidemic preparedness.”
Paul Stoffels, MD, Chief Scientific Officer, Johnson & Johnson: “We are delighted to be part of this exciting new public health initiative. The most recent Ebola outbreak – the worst in history – was a wakeup call that brought pandemic preparedness to the forefront and showed us how critically important an effort like this is to protecting society. As part of our commitment, we will work together with CEPI partners, regulators, and all stakeholders in forging a path forward to bring our Ebola vaccines to those in need. We are tremendously grateful for the support of the European Commission, Innovative Medicines Initiative, BARDA and NIH.”
Julie Gerberding, Executive VP, Strategic Communications, Global Public Policy, and Population Health at MSD: “Private sector vaccine companies have capability, capacity, and commitment to protecting health and wellbeing worldwide. CEPI is potentially an evolutionary leap forward in how we collectively conduct R&D into infectious diseases that come and go, posing challenges for clinical trials, for manufacturing, and for just-in-time delivery.”
Rajeev Venkayya, MD, President, Global Vaccine Business Unit, Takeda Pharmaceuticals: “During the next outbreak of an emerging infectious disease, the world will demand a vaccine to protect vulnerable populations everywhere. CEPI will help to prepare for that day, by tapping into the substantial R&D capabilities across industry to create a pipeline of vaccines to address some of the most pressing threats to human health. This is an important global initiative that is applying the many lessons learned from recent outbreaks, and Takeda is proud to be a partner.”
Nima Farzan, PaxVax President and CEO, who represents the Biotechnology Innovation Organisation on CEPI’s interim board: “Only by working together can we address barriers to vaccine development and prevent and contain infectious global health epidemics. Working alone, industry players face barriers to vaccine development. CEPI’s collaborative approach is vital in helping biotechs and other industry leaders pursue innovative efforts to help prepare against future pandemics and fight against global public health threats.”