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Innovative Medicines Initiative launches Ebola+ programme


  • Comprehensive programme will contribute to tackling wide range of challenges in Ebola research, including vaccines development, clinical trials, storage and transport, as well as diagnostics and treatments.
  • Today’s €280 million Call for proposals gives experts the opportunity to apply to take part in multi-sector collaborative projects that will help to make a difference in the current and future outbreaks.

Brussels, Belgium | 6 November 2014 – The Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) is launching a multi-million euro programme on Ebola and related diseases such as Marburg haemorrhagic fever. Dubbed Ebola+, the comprehensive programme will see pharmaceutical companies collaborating with each other and with experts from universities, small biotech companies, regulators, and others to tackle a broad range of challenges in Ebola research. The first Call for proposals in the programme has a total budget of €280 million and will result in projects addressing the development, manufacture, transport, and storage of vaccines; ensuring compliance with vaccine regimens; and the development of rapid diagnostic tests. The first projects are expected to begin in early 2015, and the hope is that they will deliver results that will contribute to tackling both the current and future outbreaks.

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

Scaling up vaccine manufacture – Because Ebola viruses are ‘live’, they can only be manufactured in facilities with a strong biosafety rating that ensures the protection of workers, the population and the environment from the diseases involved. 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.

Vaccine transport and storage – Vaccines are usually transported at temperatures of 2-8 ºC. However, some Ebola vaccine candidates are not stable for long periods of time at these temperatures, and must be kept at temperatures as low as -20ºC or even ‑80ºC. Maintaining these conditions during transport and storage can be extremely challenging. This project will investigate tools and technologies and identify the best ways to facilitate the deployment of Ebola vaccines via existing distribution infrastructures, while respecting the need for very low temperatures.

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

Rapid diagnostic tests – There is currently no fast, reliable test to determine if someone has Ebola or not. The goal of this project will be to pave the way for rapid diagnostic tests capable of delivering reliable results in as little as 30 minutes.

Michel Goldman, IMI Executive Director commented: ‘Today’s launch of IMI’s Ebola+ programme exemplifies IMI’s firm commitment to addressing major health challenges where there is an unmet medical need and where the impact on public health is high. I am confident that by bringing together a wide range of stakeholders in collaborative projects, IMI will make a tangible contribution to global efforts to tackle this terrible disease.’

Richard Bergstrom, Director General of EFPIA, stated: ‘Stopping the spread of Ebola, now and for future generations, is a key priority for the pharmaceutical industry, which has a long history in fighting pervasive infectious disease. The current Ebola outbreak in West Africa brings with it unprecedented challenges for patients and the healthcare system. This complex fight requires close collaboration and engagement from multiple stakeholders. The pharmaceutical industry, represented by EFPIA, recognises its responsibility and value and is ready to play a vital role.’

European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation Carlos Moedas said: ‘The EU is determined to help find a solution to Ebola. We are putting our money where our mouth is and boosting EU research on Ebola with an additional €280 million. With this funding from Horizon 2020 and our industry partners, we are stepping up the development of new vaccines and medications to help save lives around the world.’

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the Ebola outbreak to be an emergency. With this in mind, this first IMI Call for proposals will be run through a ‘fast track’ procedure that will allow the projects to get started in early 2015. €140 million of the budget will come from IMI and will fund the participation in the projects of universities, small biotech companies, and other public partners. The big pharmaceutical companies in the projects will not receive any funding, but will contribute €140 million through in kind contributions, such as their researchers’ time, access to resources, etc.

Looking to the future, further Calls for proposals are planned for the coming months. These will 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.

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Notes to Editors

  •  For more information on the first Call for proposals on the Ebola programme, visit IMI2 – Call 2
  •  Deadline for submitting proposals: 1 December 2014
  •  Unlike previous IMI Calls for proposals, this Call will have a single stage, fast-track procedure in which industry partners will have to apply alongside other applicants. 
  • Webinars on the Call topics and procedures will be held at 14:00 CET (Central European Time / Brussels time) on Wednesday 12 November and Monday 17 November.
    To register, visit: Ebola webinars 2014 page


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 current Ebola epidemic is unprecedented in its scale and geographical distribution. According to the latest reports from the WHO, as of 2 November there have been over 13 000 confirmed, probable, and suspected cases of EVD in the current outbreak and around 5 000 deaths, most of them in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.


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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). 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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