Johnson & Johnson will receive $115 million to support its Ebola vaccine research through a private-public partnership, the company said on Friday.
The money comes from Europe’s Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), and is meant to speed up development and testing of J&J’s drug through a newly created consortium that includes the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the University of Oxford and La Centre Muraz.
“In the face of the global challenge of Ebola, bringing together the expertise and capabilities of the pharmaceutical industry, academic centers and NGOs will be critical to help solve this crisis,” Paul Stoffels, Johnson & Johnson’s worldwide chairman of pharmaceuticals, said in a Friday statement. “The European Commission’s support through IMI bolsters collaboration that should significantly accelerate efforts to help address this human crisis.”
The worst Ebola outbreak in history has killed more than 8,200 people and infected more than 20,000 in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since it started last year.
Despite the fact that Ebola outbreaks have been occurring for decades, the commercial incentive for large companies to research it didn’t exist, because of the low number of patients.
“A profit-driven industry does not invest in products for markets that cannot pay,” World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan said in November. “Because Ebola has historically been confined to poor African nations, the R&D incentive is virtually nonexistent.”
But in recent months, some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies have become big players in the fight against Ebola.
In October, J&J committed $200 million to Ebola research and began testing its drug in humans on Jan. 6 after producing more than 400,000 doses last year.
The vaccine regimen is made up of two different parts injections -- one from Crucell Holland B.V. and Denmark’s Bavarian Nordic.
Johnson & Johnson isn’t the only company working on Ebola. GlaxoSmithKline is planning to begin human trials in five countries this February and Merck started its own trials in December, though recently lowered its dosage after volunteers experienced joint pain.
Chimerix started testing its Ebola drug on patients in Liberia earlier this month, in partnership with Oxford University and Doctors Without Borders.