Emergency Ebola research funding edges closer

Ebola researchers
Copyright: EMLab

Speed read

  • The cash comes from a £6.5 million pot intended for humanitarian research
  • The scheme usually agrees research funding in advance of a crisis
  • Funding could be available as early as the beginning of October

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A funding call for research to inform the management of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which has killed more than 2,000 people, closed to applications today (8 September).

The emergency research funding call was announced last month (21 August), giving expert teams from around the world three weeks to submit proposals. The aim is to produce robust evidence to contribute to the outbreak response, and draw lessons for future outbreaks.

The funding comes from a £6.5 million (US$10.5 million) initiative, Research for Health in Humanitarian Crises (R2HC), which was launched last year by the UK Department for International Development and medical charity the Wellcome Trust. The initiative supports research collaborations between public health researchers and humanitarian agencies responding to disasters.

“We were monitoring the situation over the summer and felt that the increasing scale of the Ebola outbreak, and the clear and growing need for better understanding and evidence to inform the international humanitarian response to it, merited the creation of a unique and urgent call for proposals,” says Jess Camburn, director of Enhancing Learning and Research for Humanitarian Assistance (ELRHA), the organisation that manages the R2HC programme. 

Initial proposals will be reviewed this week and selected research teams will be invited to submit more detailed proposals. Funding should be available by the beginning of October, says Camburn.

The R2HC scheme usually agrees to fund prospective research, releasing funds if the situation set out in a funding proposal arises during a crisis.

“The R2HC grant mechanism is one of the few that exist that enables such research that could have direct effects upon millions.”

Carrie Teicher, Médecins Sans Frontières

Carrie Teicher, a surgical epidemiologist working for medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières, and colleagues were awarded £107,566 (around US$175,000) in the first round to look at how serious injuries are managed following an earthquake. The team will receive the funding should such a crisis occur during the grant’s two-year lifetime.

The other group that was awarded a grant is a team from the University of Colorado, in the United States, in collaboration with the Transcultural Psychosocial Organization in Nepal. They have been awarded £79,834 (around US$129,000) to evaluate a community-based intervention to mitigate mental health impacts of disasters in Haiti or Nepal.

A total of US$3.1 million was awarded from R2HC’s first call. The second call closed on 10 July and funded projects are due to be announced early next year.

“Operations research to improve public health and medical responses in the humanitarian sector is a much needed field that needs to be expanded and better funded. The R2HC grant mechanism is one of the few that exist that enables such research that could have direct effects upon millions,” says Teicher.

It is unclear how much of the US$10.5 million R2HC will be made available for the emergency Ebola research.