January 26, 2015

Research Roundup: Ebola vaccine trials in Liberia, the spread of insect-borne tropical diseases, and more

Senior Program Assistant

In this regular feature on Breakthroughs, we highlight some of the most interesting reads in global health research from the past week.

Trials of an experimental Ebola vaccine candidate developed by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) will begin in Liberia within the next few weeks. The vaccine has been successfully tested on 200 volunteers in the United States, United Kingdom, Switzerland, and Mali. GSK sent an initial 300 doses to Liberia on Friday and plans to ultimately enroll 30,000 volunteers in the trial. GSK and NIH are partnering with Merck & Co to inject 10,000 volunteers each with the GSK/NIH vaccine, a vaccine candidate developed by NewLink Genetics Corp, and a placebo.

National Geographic took an in-depth look at three tropical diseases that present an emerging threat to Americans: dengue, Chagas, and chikungunya. The article highlights the need for research and development (R&D) of improved diagnostics for Chagas, and vaccines for chikungunya and dengue. All three diseases are spread by insects, and specialists fear they could spread to insect populations in the United States.

Bill and Melinda Gates released their annual letter last week, in which they discussed the progress they hope to see in the next 15 years in global health and development. The Gates Foundation is making an ambitious bet—that the lives of poor people will improve faster in the next 15 years than ever before. They are calling on decision-makers involved in the post-2015 development agenda processes to make realistic goals. The letter emphasizes the importance of innovation in improving the lives of people in poor countries, claiming “these breakthroughs will be driven by innovation in technology—ranging from new vaccines and hardier crops to much cheaper smartphones and tablets.”