The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced a $5.7 million commitment to scale the production and evaluation of convalescent plasma and other blood products as potential therapies for Ebola patients in West Africa.
The funding will enable Clinical Research Management, Inc. and other private-sector partners to study whether convalescent plasma donated by Ebola survivors can be used to develop an effective treatment for people infected with the virus. Philanthropic and industry partners in the effort include the Paul G. Allen Family and Greenbaum foundations, which have donated mobile donation units for the clinical trial, and Abbott Laboratories, B. Braun Medical, Inc., Haemonetics Corporation, and Helmer Scientific, which will provide guidance, medical supplies, and/or equipment. Research and academic partners in the effort include scientists from the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and Global Emerging Pathogens Therapy/Treatment. The initiative also will support the evaluation of various drug candidates, including the experimental antiviral drug brincidofovir.
"We are committed to working with Ebola-affected countries to rapidly identify and scale up potential lifesaving treatments for Ebola," said Papa Salif Sow, a senior program officer and infectious diseases expert working in the foundation’s Global Health program. "The Gates Foundation is focusing its R&D investments on treatments, diagnostics, and vaccines that we believe could be quickly produced and delivered to those who need them if they demonstrate efficacy in stopping the disease."
Elsewhere, the United States Agency for International Development, the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and Illumina have announced a public-private partnership to equip facilities in West Africa — starting with Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone — with genome sequencing technology to aid in Ebola response efforts and will support broader clinical monitoring and pathogen surveillance efforts over the long term. As part of that effort, local personnel will be trained to sequence the genome of the virus so that its movement and any mutations can be tracked in real time and inform the development of diagnostics, vaccines, and therapies.
Other grants for Ebola relief efforts announced this week include an award of $2.2 million from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust to GlobalGiving in support of both local and international humanitarian organizations working in West Africa. In addition, the Allen Family Foundation announced that it will ship more than ten thousand specially programmed smartphones to the region to enhance data collection and help identify emergency needs, and will fund NetHope's efforts to boost and extend network connectivity and mobile capacity in the region.
"We need reliable data to understand what is going on in impacted areas to get ahead of the Ebola crisis," said Allen. "NetHope is working closely with the [United Nations] and all of the large response organizations to identify the gaps in communications capacity."