Connecting Curiosity to Cures, CEPI Hopes to Eradicate Epidemics

Dylan Simon and Tristan Gray-Le Coz

Six major epidemics have emerged since the beginning of the 21st century, and with ever increasing global travel and trade, a threat to one part of the world is a threat to every part.  With future epidemics not just possible, but inevitable, the United States can take a step now that will pay off profoundly over time: we can join the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).

In March 2015, a G7 panel convened by Chancellor Angela Merkel and chaired by Bill Gates reached a straightforward and profoundly important conclusion: as a global community, we are dangerously ill-prepared for major disease outbreaks. The panel reported that the 2014 Ebola epidemic had exposed significant and costly weaknesses in our ability to prevent, diagnose and contain global infectious diseases, and recommended the creation of a global network to pursue the research and development needed to address these gaps. This vision has since evolved into the creation of CEPI.

Founded by the Gates Foundation, Wellcome Trust, World Economic Forum and the governments of Norway and India, CEPI officially launched in January 2017. CEPI’s hashtag articulates the fundamental goal: #OutSmartEpidemics. The coalition will initially focus on spurring the development of new vaccines. An $800 million public-private collaboration, CEPI is currently led by an Interim Board made up of internationally renowned experts in the fields of public health, vaccine development and infectious diseases, including Research!America board member and President of the National Academy of Medicine, Dr. Victor Dzau.

CEPI will concentrate their initial efforts on three diseases: Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Lassa fever and the Nipah virus. These diseases were selected based on their public health impact, the risk of an outbreak occurring, and the feasibility of vaccine development based on current knowledge, tools and pipeline candidates. If CEPI’s model of public-private partnership funding is successful in making an impact on the three initial target diseases, CEPI hopes to expand its efforts into more potentially epidemic diseases.

The path of least resistance is to wait until an epidemic emerges and then scramble to protect the public. But it’s also the fiscally and morally irresponsible option. Let’s put our money where the answers are and help make CEPI a strategic success. The returns on acting now may be inestimable, but since lives hang in the balance they will prove to be invaluable.

Dylan Simon and Tristan Gray-Le Coz are Science Policy Interns at Research!America.

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If concerted, long-term investments in research are not made, America will lose an entire generation of young scientists.
Brenda Canine, PhD; McLaughlin Research Institute, Montana