Press release

Ebola: £1 million grant to develop ‘in the field’ test

Public Health England (PHE) scientists are heading a group researching a rapid Ebola test.

Public Health England (PHE) scientists are heading a consortium researching a rapid ‘in the field’ Ebola test, following the successful award of Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) funding.

The IMI, through its Ebola+ programme, will fund PHE with a £1 million grant to coordinate a consortium, called MOFÍNA, of European public and private sector scientists to develop and validate a new test for Ebola, which it is hoped will let medical workers diagnose patients on site.

The research team aims to develop and validate a molecular point of care (POC) system suitable for safe, specific and sensitive detection of Ebola virus infection within the field. The system is based on the existing CE-marked assay marketed by altona and an integrated molecular diagnostic platform from Alere Inc. This molecular point of care system will detect the genetic material of Ebola viruses at a sensitivity and specificity comparable with test systems performed at central laboratories.

Professor Miles Carroll, Head of Research, Microbiology Services for PHE, said:

If our research is successful, it could be possible to diagnose a suspected case on site in 30 to 40 minutes, which will dramatically decrease mortality rates.

Patients will be treated faster leading to a greater chance of their survival. It will also help medical staff stop the spread of infection and ultimately bring outbreaks to an end.

Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies said:

A rapid diagnostic test has the potential to reduce the devastating effects of Ebola that have affected West Africa during the recent outbreak. This is a fantastic opportunity for Public Health England to significantly improve how we treat Ebola patients and ultimately stop the spread of the virus.

Dr Seshadri Vasan, PHE’s business lead for the project, said:

There is a need for rapid, accurate Ebola tests that can be used on site. We’re aiming to develop a test that can be administered safely and used in locations where laboratories are unavailable.

Our Public Health England scientists are on the front lines in West Africa, working with academic and private sector partners from around the world to develop therapeutic and diagnostic options for Ebola.


  1. This grant has been awarded to PHE scientist Professor Miles Carroll, Head of Research, Microbiology Services for PHE.

  2. Our partners are Altona Diagnostics GmbH, Alere Inc., Benhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNI), INMI L. Spallanzani IRCCD and FIND Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics. Alere Inc. and FIND are not eligible for direct EU funding under this grant scheme, but Alere Inc. is contributing through the cost of the assay development program, and FIND are contributing 1.3m euros.

  3. Research will involve testing blood samples combining Hamburg based altona Diagnostics’ Pan-filo screening IVD test with the existing Alere™ q POC molecular diagnostics platform of Alere Inc.

  4. PHE is also collaborating on 2 other initiatives to develop Ebola diagnostics: * Professor Roger Hewson and colleagues are collaborating in a EU/IMI2 funded project called EbolaMoDRAD (Ebola Virus: Modern Approaches for developing bedside Rapid Diagnostics) led by Folkhälsomyndigheten, Sweden to develop bio-safe tough, sensitive and rapid field diagnostics (RNA and serological detection) * Dr Kevin Richards and colleagues are collaborating with the University of Westminster to develop EbolaCheck - a portable device that tests bodily fluids for Ebola in a single process, providing results within 40 minutes. This project is 1 of 5 to be awarded funding by the Wellcome Trust and the Department for International Development

  5. PHE is helping to develop monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies against Ebola with Kymab Limited and MicroPharm Limited respectively, in addition to leading on the rapid down-selection of experimental Ebola therapies with funding from the Wellcome Trust.

  6. The Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) is working to improve health by speeding up the development of, and patient access to, innovative medicines, particularly in areas where there is an unmet medical or social need. It does this by facilitating collaboration between the key players involved in healthcare research, including universities, the pharmaceutical and other industries, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), patient organisations, and medicines regulators. IMI is a partnership between the European Union and the European pharmaceutical industry, represented by the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA). Through the IMI 2 programme, IMI has a budget of €3.3 billion for the period 2014 to 2024. Half of this comes from the EU’s research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020. The other half comes from large companies, mostly from the pharmaceutical sector; these do not receive any EU funding, but contribute to the projects ‘in kind’, for example by donating their researchers’ time or providing access to research facilities or resources. Find out more about IMI. Follow us on Twitter: @IMI_JU

  7. Public Health England exists to protect and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing, and reduce health inequalities. It does this through world-class science, knowledge and intelligence, advocacy, partnerships and the delivery of specialist public health services. PHE is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health. Website: Twitter: @PHE_uk, Facebook:

Published 25 March 2015