Press release

PHE scientists receive Ebola treatment research funding

The Wellcome Trust has funded Public Health England (PHE) scientists to explore possible Ebola treatment options.

Ebola virus

As England’s national public health agency and a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Haemorrhagic Fever Virus Reference and Research, PHE has been approached by a number of academic and commercial entities requesting rapid evaluation of repurposed drugs, experimental therapies and vaccines for Ebola.

PHE scientists will now use a £200K award from the Wellcome Trust for the first round of evaluating potential treatment options, and to determine the most viable candidates for further development. These candidates are from companies and universities in a range of countries including England, India, Norway, Scotland, USA and Wales.

PHE scientists will be able to consider up to 20 therapeutic candidates and provide developers, sponsors, funders and policy makers with guidance on appropriate course of action for the candidates which show promise.

Work is already underway, with assessment of candidates started on 9 December 2014.

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

Public Health England scientists have been working tirelessly both on the ground in West Africa and here in the UK to support international efforts to combat the Ebola outbreak, and I’m delighted my team can utilise our expertise to help develop a treatment.

We have robust mechanisms in place for detecting and responding to any infections within the UK, but ultimately the best possible defence is to address the Ebola outbreak at its source. Development of treatment options will not only assist with the current outbreak, but help us to prevent future outbreaks.

Dr Seshadri Vasan, PHE Senior Business Development Manager said:

PHE has a track record of scientific innovation and development, and this funding from Wellcome Trust will allow us to utilise our experience and expertise to assist in the fight against Ebola.

WHO has declared developing treatment a key global priority, and the Public Health England scientists at Porton will have a crucial role to play.

As we are in a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, PHE has reached consensus with developers that the global scientific community should have rapid access to our results even if a candidate is inactive or poorly active against Ebola.


Notes to Editors

This award for rapid down selection of experimental Ebola therapies has been awarded to PHE Porton scientists Professor Miles Carroll, Professor Roger Hewson, Dr Seshadri Vasan, Dr Julia Vipond, Dr Simon Funnell and Dr Stuart Dowall.

In addition, PHE Porton is also collaborating on 2 other projects funded by the Wellcome Trust:

  • 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
  • Professor Roger Hewson and colleagues are collaborating with Kymab Limited in a Wellcome Trust-funded project to develop monoclonal antibodies against Ebola.

PHE’s mission is to protect and improve the nation’s health and to address inequalities through working with national and local government, the NHS, industry and the voluntary and community sector.

PHE is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health. PHE has published its Global Health Strategy: 2014 to 2019 which provides a framework for its international engagement. Follow us on Twitter @PHE_uk

The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to improving health. It provides more than £700 million a year to support bright minds in science, the humanities and the social sciences, as well as education, public engagement and the application of research to medicine.

PHE Press Office, infections

61 Colindale Avenue

Published 19 December 2014