Recommendations to fast-track Ebola vaccine development

A panel of international experts, concerned about the acknowledged risk that Ebola transmission could continue into the foreseeable future, today published a roadmap to fast-track development of Ebola vaccines. The experts were convened by the Wellcome Trust and the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP).

The recommendations will help guide global efforts to expedite the availability of effective and safe Ebola vaccines to help bring an end to the current epidemic in West Africa, in addition to providing a framework to ensure the world is better prepared for inevitable future outbreaks of Ebola and other infectious diseases.

Despite ongoing public health efforts and a fall in the number of cases, the potential for Ebola virus disease (EVD) to become endemic in West Africa is still a real and concerning possibility. The availability of an effective and safe Ebola virus vaccine will be a crucial component of an integrated approach that includes classic public health measures, medical treatment and community interventions based on the social factors that lead to virus transmission.

To support international efforts, the Wellcome Trust and CIDRAP established the Ebola Vaccine "Team B" in November 2014. The 26 distinguished international leaders in public health, medicine, bioethics, pharmaceutical manufacturing, and humanitarian relief are involved in one or more areas of vaccine work, and provided collective critical analysis in key areas of vaccine development.

Co-chaired by Dr Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust, and Professor Michael Osterholm, Director of CIDRAP, their recommendations include that Ebola vaccine manufacturing could be accelerated by streamlining production using existing vaccine technologies and that Phase 2/3 clinical trials should be continued even if definitive data on vaccine efficacy cannot be guaranteed. They also recommend that African stakeholders must be at the forefront of ethical decisions that affect the safety and wellbeing of those populations hardest hit by the current outbreak, and that once this outbreak has been controlled stockpiling vaccines for future outbreaks must be considered.

"Despite falling infection rates in West Africa, the risk that the current Ebola outbreak may not be brought completely under control remains. The accelerated development of candidate vaccines, in collaboration between governments, industry, academia and philanthropy, is essential," said Dr Farrar. "We may see an end to this Ebola epidemic within the year if we continue with the current remarkable efforts, but we must not be complacent about the inevitable future epidemics of Ebola and other emerging infectious diseases. This framework, designed to guide global preparations and focusing on what needs to be done now for this epidemic and put into place in the period between future epidemics, will prove critical in minimising the chances of the world finding itself in a position again when we do not have treatments and vaccines for these predictable and often devastating diseases."

"We believe the findings in our analysis and report have far reaching implications for vaccine development for Ebola vaccines and for other emerging infectious diseases," said Professor Osterholm. "It represents a real road map for soon realising the availability of effective and safe Ebola vaccines in Africa. This is the tool that will provide the ultimate public health lever needed to address Ebola today and in the future."

This full report from Team B, follows an interim framework published last month, and provides the complete list of Ebola Vaccine Team B findings. The group is called "Team B" in recognition of the principal role played by the World Health Organization and national governments in leading the international Ebola response.