UK: Ebola - Better Understanding And Approach To R&D Needed To Tackle The Disease

Last Updated: 18 November 2014
Article by Karen Taylor

Most Read Contributor in UK, August 2017

My interest in finding out more about Ebola was sparked by colleagues writing for the US Center for Health Solutions - The Ebola outbreak: A call to action for a translational approach to R&D.1 This article contrasts the traditional approach to pharmaceutical research and development (R&D)- which can typically take 17 to 23 years to bring a new drugs to market - with a more translational approach to R&D which makes more effective use of the exponential rise of big data and analytics and speeds up the time of the whole process.

While inherently interesting in its own right, it also highlighted that I didn't know what was really happening with the Ebola outbreak and, in the face of somewhat contradictory and confusing news items, I thought it might be helpful to try and understand the current situation better.

The current Ebola outbreak in West Africa was first reported in March 2014, and has rapidly become the deadliest occurrence of the disease since its discovery in 1976:

  • by August the World Health Organisation (WHO) had declared the outbreak, recorded across five African countries (Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone,) as an international public health emergency and called for a co-ordinated response to stop the virus spreading
  • by September, WHO noted that the number of patients was increasing far faster than the capacity to manage them
  • in October, WHO declared the outbreaks in Nigeria and Senegal officially over, as there have been no new cases reported since 5 September. This was not the case, however, in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia where transmission was continuing in urban areas, with a surge in Liberia driven mainly by a sharp increase in the number of cases reported in the capital, Monrovia. The situation in Sierra Leone also continued to deteriorate with a sharp increase in the number of newly-reported cases in the capital, Freetown, and its neighbouring districts
  • as November gets under way there is growing - but guarded - talk within the WHO that the overall number of new cases appears to be levelling off. Using the best information available, the WHO is suggesting, guardedly, that the case incidence per week is not going to get larger than around 1,000 cases per week and that the big epidemic growth phase, seen in August and September, might be flattening. Nevertheless, 1,000 cases per week is still cause for concern and a huge amount of work remains to be done.

Whatever the next weeks and months bring in terms of on-going transmission, the West African Ebola outbreak is now the largest Ebola outbreak ever experienced:

  • the total number of reported cases is in excess of 13,000
  • as of 2 November, some 4,818 people across Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone are reported to have died from the disease, alongside a recent death in Mali
  • in addition, a small number of people who have travelled from these regions have exhibited the symptoms in a number of western countries, all but three infected while in West Africa. The cases include:

    • nine in the USA (one who is still in treatment, one who died and seven who have recovered)
    • three in Spain (one who has recovered and two who died)
    • three in Germany (one recovered, one in treatment and one who died)
    • one each in the UK, Norway and France who have all recovered.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has reported a separate outbreak of an unrelated strain of Ebola which by the beginning of October accounted for 70 reported cases and 43 deaths. Together, the evidence of these outbreaks has woken-up the world to the perceived threat (both real and imagined) of the disease and, importantly, has focussed attention on finding a cure.

Several companies are trying to fast-track a vaccine to prevent the spread of Ebola in West Africa but full data on its safety and efficacy is unlikely to be ready until late 2015. At GlaxoSmithKline's (GSK) vaccine research laboratories, trials that would normally take up to 10 years are being compressed into just 12 months and a vaccine has already been given to volunteers taking part in the trial in Africa. This joint effort involves the World Health Organisation (WHO), the US National Institute of Health and UK pharmaceutical firm GSK. In the next phase of the trial, the company hopes it will have 20,000 doses ready to be tested by health workers early next year. Other Ebola vaccines are being developed by researchers in Canada, Japan and Russia. Preliminary indications in Mali from the first trial is taking place seem promising.2

In the UK, Public Health England continues to work with other governments, the WHO and a wide range of partners including UNICEF and Médecins Sans Frontières, to provide support to the affected countries.3 The European Commission and the European pharmaceutical industry have also linked up to launch a 280 million euro call for proposals under the Innovative Medicines Initiative to boost Ebola research to address the current epidemic and put in place a long-term strategy to manage any future outbreaks.4

Meanwhile, the fear of an epidemic reaching US shores has raised the political temperature. President Obama announced on 5 November that he had submitted a funding request to Congress for $6.2 billion "to ensure that our doctors, scientists and troops have the resources they need to combat the spread of Ebola in Africa and to increase our preparedness for any future cases here at home."5 However, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals sent a letter to 30 doctors and Ebola experts who returned recently from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone warning them that they should not attend the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene this week in New Orleans. Furthermore, some 30 countries have imposed a blanket or near blanket ban on people from affected areas travelling to their country.6

So while a lot is being done to tackle the spread of Ebola, now and for future generations, there is still some way to go before we have the required research and development platform to produce sufficient quantities of the vaccine, while adhering to regulators' stringent quality and safety requirements.


1. The Ebola outbreak: A call to action for a translational approach to R&D. 29 September 2014, byTerri Cooper, PhD, Principal, Federal Health Sector Leader, Deloitte Consulting LLP. See also:

2. Vaccine too late for outbreak. BBC news 17 October 2014. See als0:

3. Ebola virus: UK government response. See also:


5. Ebola outbreak: Barack Obama 'to ask Congress for $6 billion' 5 November 2014 . See also;


The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.