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Happy Monday, readers! I hope you enjoyed your weekend.
This week started off with some pretty remarkable news: The world’s first-ever Ebola vaccine has been approved in Europe.
The European Commission, following a recommendation from the European Medicines Agency (EMA), Europe’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) analogue has granted drug giant Merck marketing approval for Ervebo. This is a pioneering treatment against the deadly infectious virus, which has claimed more than 2,100 lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo in less than a year-and-a-half.
This particular vaccine is urgent because of how deadly the strain it tackles is. Death rates from Ebola Zaire, the strain making its way round the Congo, can reach 67%, whereas earlier outbreaks have ranged from 25% to 90% (depending on the specific incident). Merck’s vaccines were already being used on an experimental and compassionate basis in the region last year following Ebola’s re-emergence following the deadly 2014-2016 outbreak in West Africa.
“After recognizing the need and urgency for an Ebola Zaire vaccine, many came together across sectors to answer the global call for outbreak preparedness,” said Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier in a statement.
The situation in the Congo has been complicated by regional warfare. And containing an infectious disease this dangerous is inherently complicated work. Merck will now look to an expected 2020 FDA approval and licensing of Ervebo—developed in conjunction with plenty of partners, including public academic institutes in the U.S. and Canada—in order to expand its reach.
That could be particularly significant since marketing authorizations from the E.U. and the U.S. could help make it easier for the affected populations to get the Ebola vaccine.
Read on for the day’s news.