UPDATE 1-Ebola drug trials to be fast-tracked in West Africa

Tue Sep 23, 2014 8:12am EDT
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By Kate Kelland

LONDON, Sept 23 (Reuters) - Experimental Ebola drugs including compounds from Mapp Biopharmaceutical, Sarepta and Tekmira will be tested in affected West African states for the first time in a bid to fast-track trials, the Wellcome Trust said on Tuesday.

Announcing a 3.2 million pound ($5.25 million) grant for the work, the global health charity said the money would "enable multiple partners around the world to quickly establish clinical trials at existing Ebola treatment centres".

An Ebola epidemic in West Africa has killed more than 2,800 people since it began in Guinea earlier this year, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said up to 20,000 people could be affected before it is brought under control.

The outbreak of the virus, one of the most virulent infectious diseases known in humans, has been declared a threat to international peace and security by the UN Security Council and prompted demands for an urgent response.

In August a WHO expert panel unanimously concluded that in such exceptional circumstances it would be ethical to deploy and test unregistered experimental treatments on people with Ebola.

"It is a huge challenge to carry out clinical trials under such difficult conditions, but ultimately this is the only way we will ever find out whether any new Ebola treatments actually work," said Jeremy Farrar, the Wellcome Trust's director.

"What's more, rapid trials, followed by large-scale manufacturing and distribution of any effective treatments, might produce medicines that could be used in this epidemic."   Continued...