Tag Archives: basic science

Ebola vaccine in use thanks to ‘curiosity-driven’ basic research

There was no known widespread outbreaks of Ebola when the vaccine was developed 15 years ago using animals, says Kirk Leech, EARA Executive Director.

There’s a worrying new Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) — the second the country has faced since the largest-ever Ebola virus epidemic swept West Africa from 2014 to 2015.

The World Health Organization (WHO) learned about the new outbreak in early May, but suspects that, since April, a total of 44 people have been infected with Ebola including 23 deaths. Three of the deaths involved health care workers.

The experimental vaccine was created by the Public Health Agency of Canada in 2003, the vaccine was shown to be effective in monkeys. However, because of a lack of pharmaceutical company interest before the West Africa outbreak, it literally sat on a shelf until it was licensed to Merck in 2014.

The Ebola vaccine, which it is hoped can stem the new outbreak, was developed when there was no public health emergency, and no known widespread outbreak of Ebola. There had only been 1500 cases registered world-wide in the previous three decades. The research involved, and the animals used, were essentially for curiosity-driven, basic research trying to understand, and not for some immediate clinical application.

Yes, we may now have an Ebola vaccine, but as important as this is, that’s not why the research using animals began. It began with a very human, but much maligned (especially when animals are involved) intellectual pursuit to better understand what keeps humans and animals alive and healthy.

Ebola is a viral disease that is transmitted to people from wild animals. The virus is thought to exist naturally in some fruit bats and can be transmitted to humans through bodily fluids of infected animals or through the consumption of ‘bush meat.’ Once the virus is introduced to the human population it spreads through direct contact with bodily fluids of infected people. Symptoms such as fever and bleeding from orifices can be seen after four to ten days, few people survive contact.


Brain Prize winner emphasises essential need for animal research into Alzheimer’s

Basic researchers into Alzheimer disease awarded major scientific prize

Today it was announced that the 2018 Brain Prize will be awarded to Bart De Strooper (VIB, KU Leuven and University College London), Michel Goedert (University of Cambridge), Christian Haass (DZNE, Ludwig-Maximilians-University) and John Hardy (UCL) for their groundbreaking research on the genetic and molecular basis of Alzheimer’s disease.

The four researchers will share the 1 million EUR prize awarded by the Lundbeck Foundation.
This year’s Brain Prize winners have made essential contributions, in basic research, to the genetic and molecular knowledge of Alzheimer’s, mapping new avenues for the diagnosis, treatment and possibly even prevention of this neurodegenerative disorder. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, affecting approximately 30 million people worldwide.

Accepting his prize, Prof. Bart De Strooper, who is also the new Director of the UK Dementia Research Institute, and professor at UCL, as well as VIB and KU Leuven, Belgium (both EARA members) made a strong case for the need for animal research.

“Animal rights activists often talk about alternatives, but there is no in vitro model for brain function. We can’t study dementia in a dish and there is no way around testing new medication in a living organism. Yet people without any research experience keep spreading half-truths to mislead the public opinion,” he said.

Prof. De Strooper was also pleased that the Brain Prize had underscored the importance of basic neuroscience: “The Brain Prize recognises that basic science makes a real contribution, even though it cannot always be directly applied to clinical care.”

“The Prize is an important sign for young scientists to know that they can still make big discoveries, and that we urgently need them to pursue research into diseases of the ageing brain.”

Professor Anders Bjorklund, chairman of the Lundbeck Foundation Brain Prize selection committee, said, “Alzheimer´s disease is one of the most devastating diseases of our time and remarkable progress has been made during the last decades. These four outstanding European scientists have been rewarded for their fundamental discoveries unravelling molecular and genetic causes of the disease.

The award recognises that there is more to Alzheimer´s disease than amyloid, and that the field of dementia research is more than Alzheimer´s disease alone.”