New Drugs for Bad Bugs
Ongoing | IMI1 |


Antibiotic-resistant bacteria kill 25 000 people in the EU every year, and cost the economy €1.5 billion. IMI’s New Drugs 4 Bad Bugs (ND4BB) programme represents an unprecedented partnership between industry, academia and biotech organisations to combat antibiotic resistance in Europe by tackling the scientific, regulatory, and business challenges that are hampering the development of new antibiotics. The programme currently comprises seven projects.

Vaccine development

There are currently no licensed vaccines for Ebola. However, there are a number of vaccine candidates in development, and three projects in the new IMI Ebola+ programme will generate the data needed to assess the safety and immunogenicity of different vaccine candidates and the level and duration of protection they actually offer against the disease.


VSV-EBOVAC will build on existing work to advance the development of the Ebola vaccine candidate VSV-ZEBOV (‘vesicular stomatitis virus-vectored Zaire Ebola vaccine’). The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified VSV-ZEBOV as one of the most promising Ebola vaccine candidates, and clinical trials are already underway in Europe and Africa. The VSV-EBOVAC project will use cutting-edge technologies to carry out in-depth analyses of samples taken from clinical trial participants before and after vaccination. This will allow them to gather vital information on both the strength of the immune responses triggered by the vaccine and vaccine safety.

EBOVAC 1 and 2

Between them, the two EBOVAC projects will assess, through clinical trials in Europe and Africa, the safety and tolerability of the ‘prime-boost’ Ebola vaccine regimen (Ad26.ZEBOV and MVA-BN-Filo) in development at the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson. In a prime-boost vaccine regimen, patients are first given a dose to prime the immune system, and then a boost dose which is intended to enhance the immune response over time.

Phase I trials will be carried out by the EBOVAC1 project. These trials will gather preliminary information on the safety and tolerability of the vaccine regimen. The immune response generated by the regimen will also be evaluated longer term.

Subject to review of the preliminary Phase I data, the Phase II and III trials, will be carried out in parallel by the EBOVAC2 and EBOVAC1 projects respectively to speed up the clinical development of the vaccine regimen. In these trials, larger groups of people will receive the vaccine regimen, allowing the projects to gather further information on the regimen’s safety and immunogenicity, including in specific groups such as children and the elderly, and to assess its efficacy against Ebola virus.

Vaccine manufacture capability

Ebola vaccines can only be manufactured in facilities with an appropriate biosafety rating. Relatively few manufacturers have the biosafety rating required for the manufacture of Ebola vaccines, and this is slowing down the production of vaccine candidates.


The focus of the EBOMAN project is on accelerating the development and manufacturing of a ‘prime-boost’ Ebola vaccine regimen (Ad26.ZEBOV and MVA-BN-Filo) in development at the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson. In the short term, this will ensure the delivery of sufficient quantities of the Ad26.ZEBOV and MVA-BN-Filo vaccine regimen to support the EBOVAC projects to perform the clinical trials. In parallel, this project will create additional vaccine production capacity to allow for the rapid preparation of large quantities of vaccines.

Deployment of and compliance with vaccination regimens

For a vaccine to have a real impact on an outbreak, high levels of vaccination coverage are essential. In addition, for lasting protection, two doses of the vaccine may be needed. However, the stigma surrounding Ebola, coupled with a suspicion of vaccines in general, could deter many people from getting vaccinated. Strong communication campaigns are therefore needed to address these challenges.


The EBODAC project will develop a communication strategy and tools to promote the acceptance and uptake of new Ebola vaccines. One of the project’s most important products will be a platform, based on mobile technology, dedicated to Ebola vaccines. As well as providing local communities with information on Ebola and vaccines, the platform will send reminders to people receiving the ‘prime boost’ vaccine to return to get their second ‘booster’ dose and facilitate the tracking of vaccination coverage. EBODAC will also set up local training programmes to make sure the communication strategy, and its tools, will be ready for deployment in the local setting.

Rapid diagnostic tests

There is an urgent need for fast, reliable tests to determine if someone is infected with Ebola or not. Three projects will pave the way for rapid diagnostic tests capable of delivering reliable results at the point of care in as little as 15 minutes.


The Mofina project will develop a new diagnostic test that will deliver results in under 45 minutes on whether the patient has Ebola or a related disease such as Marburg virus. Crucially, the device is designed to work well in sites where high-end laboratory infrastructures are simply not available, while also protecting users from infection. The project will draw on two existing technologies: a conventional Ebola virus test, and a point-of-care molecular diagnostics platform. After testing a prototype of the system, the project partners will validate it in the field.


The FILODIAG project aims to deliver an ultra-fast, accurate diagnostic instrument that will test for Ebola in under 15 minutes. Such a system could be used in both healthcare settings and at critical infrastructures like airports. Current tests for Ebola virus take a long time because samples must be heated and then cooled in each of the many processing cycles. This project will replace the heating/cooling steps with a technology based on laser-heated nanoparticles. Early tests of this technology have worked well. The project will add a step to concentrate the virus and refine and test the system before evaluating it in the field.


The EbolaMoDRAD project aims to develop and validate in the field a rapid diagnostic tool that will be both simple and safe to use in low resource settings by people who may not have specialist training. At the same time, the project will implement a large-scale capacity building programme in West Africa with a strong focus on diagnostics, biosafety, and outbreak management. Finally, it will ensure its results are communicated widely, especially to public health bodies, charities, outbreak management teams, and local hospitals.

IMI Open Call on Ebola and related diseases

In December 2015, IMI launched a two year, €70 million open Call for proposals (IMI 2 - Call 8) that invites consortia to submit proposals covering diverse aspects of Ebola research, including the development of vaccines, diagnostic tests, and treatments. The resulting projects should be able to capture emerging scientific advances and turn them into healthcare interventions that will increase our readiness to react to future outbreaks of Ebola or related diseases. The Call has a total budget of €70 million and will remain open for a period of two years with the following cut-off dates for submission of proposals: 16 March 2016, 15 September 2016, 16 March 2017, 14 September 2017, 15 March 2018. The €70 million budget from IMI will be available from the first cut-off date.

About Ebola and related diseases

Ebola virus disease (EVD), previously known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, is a rare and deadly disease caused by infection with one of the Ebola virus strains. The virus spreads in the human population through direct human-to-human contact with the bodily fluids of infected patients who are showing symptoms. It has an incubation period of 2-21 days, and it usually begins with flu-like symptoms, but rapidly progresses to multiple organ failure and blood-clotting abnormalities which manifest as internal and external haemorrhages (bleeding). It is fatal in between 25% and 90% of cases. There is currently no licensed treatment against EVD, and the development of treatments and preventive measures such as vaccines is hampered by challenges including manufacturing-related hurdles, the stability of vaccines during transport and storage, vaccine deployment, and the time taken to diagnose cases of EVD.

Ebola is a member of the filovirus family of viruses, which also includes Marburg virus. Like Ebola, Marburg causes cause severe, often fatal haemorrhagic fever in humans and other primates (monkeys, gorillas and chimpanzees), and like Ebola, it is transmitted directly from one person to another. (In contrast, other viruses that cause haemorrhagic fevers are spread via intermediate hosts - for example, dengue fever is transmitted by mosquitoes.) There is no specific treatment or vaccine against Marburg heamorrhagic fever.

The 2014-15 Ebola epidemic is unprecedented in its scale and geographical distribution. By the end of 2014, World Health Organization (WHO) statistics recorded around 20 000 cases and 8 000 deaths from the disease, most of them in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

Achievements & News

IMI cited in White House paper on antimicrobial resistance
IMI’s New Drugs for Bad Bugs (ND4BB) programme has been specifically highlighted as a potential collaborator in the recent US National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria report issued by the White House in March 2015. The plan outlines steps for implementing and addressing the policy recommendations of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). ###In setting five goals for collaborative action, the US Government is exploring ways to work with international partners, including the ND4BB programme, in order to incentivise the development of new therapeutics to counter antibiotic resistance which includes finding new, next-generation and alternatives to antibiotics, vaccines, and affordable, rapidly-deployable ‘point-of-need’ diagnostics. IMI projects included in the ND4BB programme are COMBACTE who are creating a pan-European network of clinical sites; TRANSLOCATION who are getting drugs into bugs (and keeping them there); ENABLE which is a drug-discovery platform for antibiotics; DRIVE-AB which is developing new economic models for antibiotic development.
(April 2015)

IMI antimicrobial resistance programme expands with new project
IMI’s antimicrobial resistance programme New Drugs for Bad Bugs has acquired a new project with the launch of COMBACTE-CARE. With 18 academic partners and 3 pharmaceutical companies, the project will bring highly innovative studies and activities related to the treatment of patients with infections caused by Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE). ###Tough to treat and sometimes deadly, CRE are considered to be one of the most dangerous resistant bacteria in the world. Specifically, the €83 million project aims to understand how patients with CRE infections are managed, with a focus on best available treatment and clinical outcomes. The project will develop new tools to detect CRE and conduct clinical trials with AstraZeneca’s antibiotic combination product Aztreonam-Avibactam (ATM-AVI), in development for the treatment of serious infections due to a difficulty to treat sub-type of CRE infections called metallo‐β‐lactamase producing Gram‐negative pathogens. All clinical and microbiological studies will be conducted in South-Eastern Europe, where infection rates with MDR-GNB are expected to be high. The phase III study is intended to include investigation sites outside Europe to ensure the global assessment of the ATI-AVI combination product.
- Read the project’s press release
(March 2015)

ND4BB – the story so far, in Nature Reviews Microbiology
IMI’s antimicrobial resistance (AMR) programme New Drugs for Bad Bugs (ND4BB) is the focus of a recent comment piece in Nature Reviews Microbiology by John Rex of AstraZeneca, who is involved in ND4BB. The article explains how ###IMI and other projects around the world are tackling the biggest challenges in antibiotic research and development. For example, TRANSLOCATION is investigating how to transport antibiotics into bacteria, while COMBACTE focuses on the design and implementation of more efficient clinical trials. ENABLE, IMI’s newest AMR project, is creating a drug discovery platform to fast-track the development of promising molecules. The article also highlights IMI project RAPP-ID, which is working on point-of-care tests, as well as a number of US-based initiatives. Looking to the future, the article notes that IMI has a project in development which will investigate new business models and economic strategies to incentivise the development of new antibiotics.
The article concludes: ‘Although the [AMR] crisis is far from resolved, the leadership of the European Commission are to be commended for their far-sighted approach to creating ND4BB and its projects, all of which provide hope that the global community will have access to an adequate pipeline of novel antimicrobial agents with which to address the challenge of AMR.’
(April 2014)

Antimicrobial resistance projects sign memorandum of understanding
IMI’s first antimicrobial resistance projects, COMBACTE and TRANSLOCATION, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to facilitate their collaboration. ### The projects are part of the New Drugs for Bad Bugs (ND4BB) programme. As such, there was always an understanding that the projects would work together – this MoU simply formalises and sets out the framework for collaboration. Specifically, the MoU covers issues such as data sharing (and confidentiality), communication and coordination, as well as the creation of a shared Ethics Committee. One of the tasks of the TRANSLOCATION project is the creation of an Info Centre that would gather data from all ND4BB projects. With this in mind, the MoU also contains a section devoted to data standards and analysis. Looking to the future, the new ND4BB projects that will be set up in the coming months will also be invited to join the MoU.
(December 2013)


Details of all project participants can be found on the individual project factsheets.


Contact details for the projects can be found in the individual project factsheets.