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First Innovative Medicines Initiative Ebola projects get underway


  • Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) is launching first eight projects on Ebola, covering vaccine development and manufacture, vaccine uptake, and diagnostics.
  • Projects are part of the wider IMI Ebola+ programme, which is designed to contribute to efforts to tackle a broad range of major challenges in Ebola research while complementing work supported by other funding bodies.
  • Total budget of the eight projects launched: €215 million.
    Support comes from the EU’s research and innovation programme Horizon 2020 and the EFPIA partners in the projects.

Brussels, Belgium | 16 January 2015 – The Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) is launching the first eight projects of its Ebola+ programme, to accelerate all aspects of vaccine development and manufacturing as well as deployment and compliance with vaccine regimens and diagnostics. The announcement comes in the run up to the World Economic Forum in Davos, where Ebola will feature high on the agenda.

The eight projects were selected from proposals submitted under IMI’s first Ebola+ Call for proposals, which was launched in November 2014. The Ebola+ programme was created in response to the ongoing Ebola outbreak in western Africa, which has killed over 8 000 people so far. Between them, the projects bring together over 40 partners from the pharmaceutical & diagnostics industries, public health bodies, academia, aid organisations, and small biotech companies in Europe, Africa and the United States. Previous experience at IMI has shown that consortia of this kind, bringing together diverse groups from around the world, can make progress in even the most challenging disease areas.

The projects will have a total budget of €215 million, part of which comes from Horizon 2020, the EU’s research and innovation programme, and part of which comes in the form of in-kind contributions from the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) partners in the projects.

Irene Norstedt, IMI Acting Executive Director, said: ‘The launch of these exciting new projects demonstrates the ability of the Innovative Medicines Initiative to respond rapidly to emerging healthcare emergencies with a programme that will tackle a range of challenges in Ebola research while complementing work supported by other organisations. Our hope is that these projects will help to make a difference in both the current and future outbreaks.’

European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation Carlos Moedas said: ‘There is no vaccine or treatment against Ebola as yet, so we must urgently step up our efforts in Ebola research. With this funding from Horizon 2020 and our industry partners, we are speeding up the development of an Ebola vaccine as well as rapid diagnostic tests to aid heroic health workers. These are the tools we need to defeat Ebola once and for all.’

Director General of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) Richard Bergstrom said: ‘The discussions on Ebola set to take place in Davos demonstrate the need to find new ways to deal with such global health crises. The Innovative Medicines Initiative, with its ability to mobilise various public and private partners, offers one solution. Thanks to its collaborative spirit, IMI’s Ebola+ programme allows us to work towards solutions efficiently, in a way that no single body could alone.’

Development of Ebola vaccines – 3 projects – 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.

Scaling up vaccine manufacture – 1 project – 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. This project will establish a platform capable of rapidly producing sufficient quantities of the vaccine, while adhering to stringent quality and safety requirements. In parallel, this project will create additional vaccine production capacity to allow for the rapid preparation of large quantities of vaccines.

Compliance with vaccine regimens – 1 project– 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. This project will investigate innovative ways of promoting compliance, for example by using mobile phones. The project will also use these technologies to raise awareness and acceptance of vaccination campaigns.

Rapid diagnostic tests – 3 projects– 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.

Looking to the future, further Calls for proposals are planned for the coming months. These could address issues such as the development of a vaccine that offers broad protection against both Ebola and other, related viruses such as Marburg; the development of new treatments for Ebola; new vaccines that do not require extreme temperatures; and the generation of new diagnostic tests.

# ENDS #

Notes to Editors

Details of the projects launched can be found on the Ebola+ programme page
Note: The Grant Agreements for some projects selected under the first call of the Ebola+ programme are still being finalised. Final information on all selected projects, including full budget details, will be published once the Grant Agreements have been signed

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, and the IMI Ebola+ programme is also designed to address these. 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 current Ebola epidemic is unprecedented in its scale and geographical distribution. According to reports from the WHO, as of 11 January there have been over 21 000 confirmed, probable, and suspected cases of EVD in the current outbreak and over 8 000 deaths, most of them in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

Press contacts

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Catherine Brett – External Relations Manager
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About IMI

The Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) is working to improve health by speeding up the development of, and patient access to, innovative medicines, particularly in areas where there is an unmet medical or social need. It does this by facilitating collaboration between the key players involved in healthcare research, including universities, the pharmaceutical and other industries, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), patient organisations, and medicines regulators.

IMI is a partnership between the European Union and the European pharmaceutical industry, represented by the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA). Through the IMI 2 programme, IMI has a budget of €3.3 billion for the period 2014-2024. Half of this comes from the EU’s research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020. The other half comes from large companies, mostly from the pharmaceutical sector; these do not receive any EU funding, but contribute to the projects ‘in kind’, for example by donating their researchers’ time or providing access to research facilities or resources.

About Horizon 2020

On 1 January 2014 the European Union launched a new, seven year research and innovation funding programme called Horizon 2020. Over the next seven years almost €80 billion will be invested in research and innovation projects to support Europe's economic competitiveness and extend the frontiers of human knowledge. The EU research budget is focused mainly in improving everyday life in areas like health, the environment, transport, food and energy. Research partnerships with the pharmaceutical, aerospace, car and electronics industries also encourage private sector investment in support of future growth and high skill job creation. Horizon 2020 will have an even greater focus on turning excellent ideas into marketable products, processes and services.


EFPIA represents the pharmaceutical industry operating in Europe. Through its direct membership of 33 national associations and 40 leading pharmaceutical companies, EFPIA provides the voice of 1 900 companies committed to researching, developing and bringing new medicines to improve health and quality of life around the world. The pharmaceutical industry invests €30.6 billion on research and development per year in Europe and directly employs 690 000 people including 115 000 in R&D units in Europe.

EFPIA members are committed to delivering innovative medicines to address unmet needs of patients and reducing the burden of chronic diseases for Europe’s ageing population. EFPIA believes in close cooperation with its stakeholders to help create sustainable healthcare   systems and to develop prompt responses to health threats in Europe.

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