Gates Foundation to support Ebola-affected countries, accelerate treatment evaluation
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, based in Seattle, Wash., will be supporting efforts in Guinea and other Ebola-affected countries to scale up the production and evaluation of convalescent plasma and other convalescent blood products as potential therapies for people infected with the Ebola virus. Various drug candidates also will be evaluated, including the experimental antiviral drug brincidofovir.
The foundation has committed $5.7 million to launch the effort, and specific trial designs and locations will be confirmed in coordination with national health authorities and the World Health Organization (WHO).
"We are committed to working with Ebola-affected countries to rapidly identify and scale up potential lifesaving treatments for Ebola," said Dr. Papa Salif Sow, a senior program officer and infectious diseases expert with 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."
Convalescent plasma combined with pathogen inactivation technology represents a potential pathway to the development of an effective treatment for people infected with Ebola. The Gates Foundation is providing funding to Clinical Research Management (ClinicalRM) and a broad array of private sector partners to study Ebola convalescent plasma that will be donated by Ebola survivors, in accordance with recent WHO guidance. The convalescent plasma will be collected through mobile donation units fully equipped with Haemonetics PCS2 plasma collection systems and the Cerus INTERCEPT pathogen inactivation blood system.
Ebola survivors who are potential donors will be tested to ensure that they are cured of Ebola and are not infected with other blood-borne diseases. For added safety, the trial's use of pathogen inactivation technology will substantially reduce the risk of any transfusion-transmitted infection from blood components.
Previously, convalescent plasma therapy was limited to transfusing whole blood collected from the survivor directly into the patient. Now the best way to collect these antibodies is through plasmapheresis. This process uses a device to remove some blood from the donor and save only the liquid part, or plasma, containing antibodies. The rest of the blood is returned to donors via infusion, which allows them to donate significantly more anti-Ebola antibodies than could be obtained via a whole blood donation. Use of plasmapheresis also allows survivors to donate every two weeks. By contrast, survivors who donate whole blood cannot volunteer for plasmapheresis for at least another three months, according to WHO guidance.
Additional key research and academic partners include:
- U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID): John Dye, Ph.D., providing EBV testing for clinical trials in West Africa
- The Global Emerging Pathogens Therapy/Treatment (GET): Scientific support, technical experience and outreach to partners in Africa for the clinical trial
- Case Western Reserve University: Robert Salata, M.D.
- Johns Hopkins University: Jonathan Zenilman, M.D.
- University of California, San Francisco: Mac Griffiss, M.D.