Applying lessons from Ebola to get ahead of the threat
The devastating Ebola outbreak in West Africa taught the global community that greater speed, integration and innovation are critical when responding to outbreaks of infectious diseases. The slow global response to that outbreak may have contributed to the deaths of thousands of people.
Now, another disease is challenging governments and the global health community. While the Zika virus may not have the deadly consequences of Ebola, the lessons learned from that outbreak can be applied to prevent this one from becoming the next pandemic.
That is why Paul G. Allen and Vulcan Inc. are announcing two grants focused on the current Zika outbreak, which began in Latin America and has grown quickly.
This funding supports new tools to detect Zika, while simultaneously mounting broad community engagement efforts to mitigate the outbreak’s impact.
A $1.5 million grant to the American Red Cross will support the global Red Cross network’s integrated vector-control activities in Zika-affected areas.
“Our first grant during the Ebola crisis was to the Red Cross and we are pleased to support their efforts on the ground to address this emerging threat,” said Brennan Banks, Deputy Director, Vulcan Philanthropy.
Their efforts will focus on health, sanitation, hygiene promotion and preparedness for up to 1.2 million people starting in Brazil and expanding to additional countries.
“Education and innovation are vital to stemming global health epidemics. Paul G. Allen and Vulcan Inc.’s generous contribution supports the global Red Cross network’s ability to prevent the spread of Zika and identify new ways of addressing present and future health emergencies,” said Harold Brooks, Sr. Vice President of International Services at the American Red Cross.
Another $550,000 grant will help Chembio Diagnostics Systems Inc. develop a suite of rapid diagnostic tests to detect Zika, including a stand-alone Zika test and other rapid diagnostics to differentiate between multiple fever illnesses. Currently, only laboratory diagnostic tests are available for Zika, and these point-of-care tests would fill an important gap in global public health.
“We are excited to expand our partnership with Chembio to develop the diagnostic tools critically needed for detecting Zika, Ebola and other febrile illnesses,” said Dr. Sandra Laney, Deputy Director, Vulcan Philanthropy.
John Sperzel, Chembio's Chief Executive Officer said, "We are delighted to again partner with Paul Allen and we believe this grant will serve as a catalyst for additional funding to accelerate the development of our POC DPP® Zika assays. It is essential that government, industry, and regulatory agencies work together to address the global health emergencies posed by emerging diseases such as Zika virus.”
The funding for these grants comes from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and follows Mr. Allen’s $100 million commitment to help end the Ebola outbreak. These grants build on Mr. Allen’s history of support for health research and public health initiatives, and illustrate his commitment to ensuring the world is better prepared to prevent future pandemics.
In an increasingly connected and changing world, the threat of dangerous infectious diseases will never disappear. However, with vigilance, innovation and proactive collaboration, we can avoid their worst impacts – and prevent them from becoming global health crises.