LONDON (Reuters) – The Europe Union and drug-makers pledged on Thursday to invest 280 million euros (US$350 million) in Ebola research, with the lion’s share going to the testing and manufacture of potential vaccines.
The funding will go to projects backed by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), a public-private scheme jointly paid for by the European Commission and the pharmaceuticals industry.
Reuters reported on October 22 that an IMI investment of around 200 million euros was pen-ding. Since then, further discussions have been held about the resources needed for various projects and the amount has been increased.
The final document setting out the plans com-mits the European Commission to giving as much as 140 million euros, with companies providing an equivalent amount in staff time, goods and services.
“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 euros,” said Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for research.
The move shows how momentum is building to get medical intervention, especially vaccines, to West Africa as soon as possible, to try to control the world’s worst Ebola outbreak, which has killed nearly 5,000 people, according to official data. Many experts believe the true death toll is a lot higher.
The EU is also beginning its biggest single ope-ration of transporting supplies to West Africa, with a Dutch ship sailing on Thursday from the Netherlands, loaded with ambulances, mobile hospitals, laboratories and other equipment pro-vided by nine European countries.
With a total budget of 3.3 billion euros for the period 2014 to 2024, Europe’s IMI scheme is the world’s biggest public-private partnership in life sciences.
It began in 2008 and now has 46 ongoing projects, some of which are focused on specific health issues such as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and obesity. Others involve work on broader chal-lenges in drug development.