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Norway to host global epidemic preparedness organisation, CEPI

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) will host the new global Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). The CEPI Secretariat will be a separate, independent organisation based at the NIPH premises but with nodes in London and Delhi.

Hetteglass med sprøyte
Illustrasjonsfoto: Colourbox.com

CEPI was launched during the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos on January 19th. At the launch were Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway, Guinea's President Alpha Konde, Bill Gates, as well as Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust and Andrew Witty, CEO of GlaxoSmithKline.

CEPI is a partnership of public, private and humanitarian organisations that will stimulate, coordinate and fund the development of vaccines against selected diseases, particularly where development does not occur through market incentives.

Important vaccine

John-Arne Røttingen, Executive Director at the NIPH, has led the organisation's interim secretariat since July 2016. He says CEPI will build upon lessons learned from the Ebola epidemic in West Africa during 2014-15, which resulted in tragic consequences for the countries involved.

“The world community took too long to respond so the outbreak had catastrophic consequences. However, once the international players eventually came together and decided to develop a vaccine, they responded rapidly. They managed to finalise a vaccine in record time, thanks to the extraordinary volunteer efforts from states, international organisations, researchers, humanitarian organisations, pharmaceutical manufacturers, regulatory authorities and other parties,” says Røttingen, who led the trial of the Ebola vaccine in Guinea.

The final results from this study were published in The Lancet in December 2016. The results show that the vaccine is effective against Ebola disease.

Camilla Stoltenberg, Director-General at the NIPH, is pleased that the NIPH and Norway will host the CEPI Secretariat. She emphasises that research into vaccines against epidemic diseases is an important part of the world’s preparedness.

“CEPI fills a gap in global preparedness against diseases that could potentially become epidemics. There is insufficient research into vaccine and vaccine development for which there is no market. That is why this coalition is so important,” says Stoltenberg, adding that the CEPI Secretariat will operate independently from the NIPH. “I am sure that the NIPH and CEPI will benefit greatly from each other,” she says.

Japan, Norway, Germany, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust are behind a combined initial investment of 4 billion Norwegian kroner. India is one of the initiators of CEPI and will shortly publish its investment details. The European Commission supports CEPIs goals and plans to co-finance CEPI through mechanisms such as the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI).

CEPI will prevent epidemics by developing vaccines against potential epidemic diseases so that the vaccines are ready for testing early in an outbreak, thus helping to limit the outbreak and prevent an epidemic.

CEPI is beginning to develop vaccines against three diseases that have the potential to become major epidemics - MERS, Lassa fever and Nipah - and hope to have tested two promising vaccine candidates in humans for each of these diseases within five years. The coalition is also supporting the development of vaccines against various Ebola and Marburg viruses. CEPI’s first Call for Proposals has been announced.

New and unknown diseases are certain to arise so CEPI will support the development of vaccine platforms where new infectious agents can be inserted into an already proven vaccine for rapid manufacture and testing to fight outbreaks. In this way, we can establish preparedness against unexpected diseases.

Headquarters in Norway

CEPI will have headquarters in Norway, with offices in London and Delhi. The Secretariat will be supported through a tripartite cooperation between the authorities in Norway and India and the Wellcome Trust foundation in London.

About CEPI

Epidemic outbreaks cost vast resources worldwide. The Ebola outbreak in West Africa killed over 11,000 people and caused economic losses in the order of 24 billion Norwegian kroner in the countries that were hardest hit. The SARS outbreak that began in China cost over 350 billion kroner and major pandemics cost the world several thousand billion kroner.

Outbreaks caused by new or recurrent infections are increasingly common. In a world with increased mobility, ecological change and more densely populated cities with large slum areas with poor health services they are becoming an increasingly destructive force.

Many of the diseases that cause epidemics could be prevented by vaccines, but these have not yet been developed. The outbreaks are sporadic, the countries most affected are poor and the market for vaccines is limited.

The extraordinary international effort during the Ebola outbreak brought together researchers, pharmaceutical companies, research funding and states to accelerate clinical trials of several promising vaccine candidates. It was successful, but we cannot rely on ad-hoc organisation in the future. We need a sustainable system.

www.cepi.net