Drug makers are racing to develop vaccines and drugs to address the worst outbreak of Ebola in history. It’s unclear who will pay for their products, but companies are betting that governments and aid groups will foot the bill.
There are no proven drugs or vaccines for Ebola, in large part because the disease is so rare that up until now it’s been hard to attract research funding. And the West African nations hardest hit by the outbreak are unlikely to be able to afford new Ebola vaccines and drugs.
But governments and corporations now are shifting millions of dollars to fight Ebola in the wake of the outbreak that has infected nearly 10,000 people and killed over 4,800.
Among them is Rockville-based Novavax. Led by Dr. Gale Smith, a pioneer in the creation of genetically engineered vaccines, they started working on an Ebola vaccine candidate five weeks ago.
“if it proves effective and safe then we have the capacity to make a significant impact on this terrible epidemic, Smith said. “We felt that there was a moral imperative to do what we could with our technology to see if we couldn’t develop a vaccine to help prevent the spread of this disease.”
Experts say drug makers are wagering that international groups and wealthier governments like the U.S. will buy Ebola vaccines and drugs in mass quantities to stockpile them for future use once they’re deemed safe.
“To be able to make it in large enough scale that we can vaccinate millions of people and that – plus infection control – will allow us, we think, to break the course of the disease,” said Stanley Erck, the CEO of Novavax.