Research Funders Role for Ebola in DRC
The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) continues to devastate communities in Eastern DRC and draw international attention due to the increasing number of cases, the associated deaths, the fact that it’s in a conflict zone and the potential for national and regional spread. Positively, investigational vaccines and therapeutics are being used for the first time at scale. Also, preparedness efforts in neighboring countries are ongoing, including vaccinating health workers as a preventive measure. Despite this progress, the scientific community has stressed that funds are vital to intensify the current response and invest in social science and technological research for the long-term.
A quick response to outbreaks is essential, but research is the bedrock of an effective one. Until we find a mechanism to support research and development related to future epidemics and have the flexibility to respond immediately, the world will remain very vulnerable. The ability to respond needs to be more dynamic than the epidemic itself – there is little value and no comfort in saying we can respond in a year if an epidemic is over in 6 months. GloPID-R exists to be the mechanism that can provide that value and comfort. It is an international network of research funders whose work is to prepare for epidemics and facilitate the necessary funding in response to them.
This was the case with EVD in DRC. In fact, GloPID-R Members mobilized funding in response to the epidemic in May 2018 in less than an hour of being asked. Together we also made an international public call for data sharing during Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) with many GloPID-R partners and leading scientific institutions as signatories.
A rapid outbreak response also requires an international, multi-sector coordinated effort. To this end, GloPID-R regularly communicates with other institutions and organizations, including the WHO, MSF, Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), ALIMA, ALERRT, PREPARE, the Joint Programming Initiative on Antimicrobial Resistance (JPIAMR), and others to exchange information and find potential areas for collaboration. Recently, GloPID-R and the Platform for European Preparedness Against (Re-)emerging Epidemics (PREPARE) co-hosted an international meeting on conducting clinical trials during infectious disease outbreaks. Events like these need sustainable funding because they highlight challenges and find solutions.
No simple solution exists for EVD – or any other epidemic, for that matter. However, as research funders we can prioritize funding for vaccines, treatments, public health, and social science. We can help ensure that rapid research conducted during an epidemic is conducted in an ethical and sound manner. We must commit to work in partnership with countries to strengthen their universal health systems and research capacities. EVD in DRC has demonstrated that the work we do today can have an effect for the work that will be needed tomorrow.
GloPID-R remains committed to finding ways to quickly deploying funding for the most needed research today while also supporting health systems and preparing research priorities for the inevitable epidemics of the future.