Essential medicines and health products

Ebola R&D summit to develop R&D plan of action for next global health emergency

The World Health Organization is convening a Summit on Ebola Research and Development on 11-12 May in Geneva, Switzerland, to look at some of the lessons learned within the past year of the Ebola outbreak. The main objective of the Summit is to use this experience to develop a roadmap for coordinated R&D action for future epidemics.

The current Ebola epidemic is waning, and the window of opportunity for testing some of the tools developed in a very short time is closing; however, the R&D work carried out so far provides a great potential for future response to diseases beyond Ebola.

As is the case with many tropical diseases, medical tools to prevent, cure and diagnose Ebola did not exist at the outset of the outbreak. Nine months after the outbreak was declared a global public health emergency, we have three rapid diagnostic kits to detect the infection and a number of potential vaccines, medicines and blood products being assessed in clinical trials. No doubt, considerable progress has been made towards defending populations against the Ebola outbreak. More than that, we have learned that the traditional R&D model can be adapted and accelerated, provided partners work together in a coordinated way and share information.

The intention of the Summit, to develop a roadmap for R&D in emergency situations, will aim to establish clear rules and guidelines toward safe and accelerated discovery, development, assessment and access to safe and effective health technologies in the context of infectious disease outbreaks. If something like Ebola ever happens again, the world must be prepared for an immediate and effective response to avoid another dire crisis.