The Ebola virus disease (EVD) was first identified in 1976. “Then why are we still without a vaccine for this deadly disease?” you may ask.
Almost a decade ago, scientists in Canada and the Unites States reported the creation of an Ebola vaccine for monkeys that guaranteed resistance. The results were reported in a reputable journal, and there was a lot of buzz in the health community. Testing in humans was expected to start within two years, and a product ready by 2010 or 2011. However, the endeavor was shelved.
Why? Until recently, Ebola was a rare disease that infected only a few hundred people at a time in underdeveloped regions of Africa. There was insufficient market incentive for pharmaceutical companies in developed countries to invest resources into developing a vaccine and making it available. Bringing a new vaccine to market typically costs $1 billion to $1.5 billion, so there was no potential for profit.
Unfortunately, it has taken 5,000 deaths and the threat of a global spread to convince pharmaceutical companies otherwise. Sadly, many more people will die until a solution can be reached.
The only way to prevent this tragedy in the future is for governments to provide incentives for research into neglected diseases.
Written by: Alex Pearson
Alex is a second year Neuroscience student at Western University. He is currently the co-Director of Empowerment at UAEM Western.