Rapid humanitarian research fund kicks in for Ebola

SciDev - Fri, 22 Aug 2014 10:13 GMT
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An emergency call for research projects on Ebola that will tap into ahumanitarian crisis fund is being launched today by UK-based medical research charity the Wellcome Trust and the Department for International Development.

The call aims to better inform the fight against current and future Ebola outbreaks and is open to researchers worldwide in fields including anthropology, clinical management, diagnosis, disease control and prevention, ethics, health systems, social mobilisation, surveillance and treatment.

“What we learn could also change the way we approach future outbreaks, providing us with tested tools and techniques that were not available to public health authorities this time.”

Jeremy Farrar, Wellcome Trust

The deadline is 8 September and the idea is to immediately review proposals to allow researchers to start work as soon as possible.

It is unclear how much money will be made available from the £6.5 million (around US$10.8 million) within the overall Research for Health in Humanitarian Crises (R2HC) fund.

A Wellcome Trust-DFID press release says: “The size and number of grants to be awarded will depend on the number of high-quality applications received that are within the scope of the call.”

In the release, Justine Greening, the United Kingdom’s international development secretary, added: “This will help us better equip those working on the ground so they can tackle the outbreak as effectively as possible and prevent more people contracting this terrible disease.”

Wellcome Trust director Jeremy Farrar said in the release: “We believe rapid research into humanitarian interventions and therapeutics can have an impact on treatment and containment during the present outbreak.

“What we learn could also change the way we approach future outbreaks, providing us with tested tools and techniques that were not available to public health authorities this time.”

The current Ebola outbreak in West Africa continues to spread. So far, it has killed more than 1,300 people, according to the WHO.

The WHO has declared it an international emergency — a rare move — and has ruled it to be ethical to provide experimental drugs not previously tested on humans for compassionate care of Ebola patients.

Yet, the supply of experimental treatments is limited, and some experts are calling for the supply of such drugs to be scaled up, as seen in the opinion pages of this week’s Nature.

Other coverage, including a report in UK newspaper The Independent last week (13 August), has highlighted that the outbreak’s effect on healthcare provision may lead to many more people dying from other treatable diseases, such as malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea.

An article in Bloomberg Businessweek used the global burden of disease estimates to put the numbers of deaths in perspective: for example, 298 people died from Ebola in approximately four months in Sierra Leone compared with an estimated 650 from meningitis, 670 from tuberculosis, 790 from HIV/AIDS, 845 from diarrhoeal diseases and more than 3,000 from malaria.

Link to R2HC’s Ebola health research call
Link to article in Nature
Link to article in The Independent
Link to article in Bloomberg Businessweek

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