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Ebola Drug Funding Ramps Up

FEB 10, 2015 | GALE SCOTT
The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is authorized to spend $2.7 billion in federal emergency funds to counter the spread of Ebola. On Jan. 13 the agency detailed its spending plans.

Spending categories range from over a half billion dollars for international Ebola projects to a half million dollars for regulatory work that includes monitoring for fraudulent Ebola products.

While the largest amount ($1.8 billion) will go the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, much is earmarked for drug and vaccine development.

Separately, on the international front, J&J pharmaceuticals announced it has formed an Ebola vaccine development group. It will work in conjunction with Janssen Pharmaceutical to develop a vaccine. Funding of 100 million Euros will come from a European consortium. Institutions involved include the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, the University of Oxford, the Institut National de la Sante et de la Recherche Medicale, and others.  

In the US, about half of the CDC allotment ($603 million) will go to international programs. “Threats abroad do not recognize national borders,” HHS noted in releasing the budget plan, “the health of people overseas directly affects Americans’ safety at home.” The CDC is expected to use its funding to make sure “Ebola epidemics do not spread unrecognized in the future.”

The spending plan calls for continuing existing quarantine and traveler screening, at a cost of $114 million.

The US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) will get $157 million to further work on ZMapp, the monoclonal antibody drug that requires cultivation in tobacco plant cells. BARDA will also use its money to develop antivirals for Phase II trials, to advance the development of vaccine candidates and other therapeutic Drug candidates.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) share of the funding ($25 million) will include $4.8 million for its Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research to hire another 17 workers involved in Ebola drug and vaccine development and another 7 workers doing related research at the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

US hospitals, some which have been hit hard by the expense of setting up Ebola treatment areas, worker training, and new safety supplies, will get $576 million. HHS did not say how that hospital money will be apportioned.