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Make Me Smart with Kai and Molly

Episode 122: Space — the final business frontier

Jul 16, 2019

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Early results suggest an effective Ebola vaccine

Dan Gorenstein Jul 31, 2015
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The world is on the verge of an effective Ebola vaccine, according to findings published Friday in the medical journal the Lancet.  

The World Health Organization cautions that more research is needed, but early results are promising. Namely, after administering the vaccine to 4,000 people who were in close contact with Ebola patients, the treatment provided 100 percent protection.

As one epidemiologist put it on Twitter: “Hey science, you really, really inspire me. This is breathtaking news.”

What’s also breathtaking is that the research, development and testing of a vaccine typically takes a decade, and this one took five months.

“When there is an urgency to save lives, research and development can be fast-tracked and made to work for the common good,” says Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO assistant-director general .

Kieny says the global response, where countries and their regulators worked closely with industry, could serve as a model for future outbreaks.

As impressive as the response was, Boston University professor Kevin Outterson says there’s an even more fundamental lesson here. 

“The only way you would come up with something that quickly is if the basic research had been done for a decade before,” he says.

Modest funding from Canada, the U.S. and European governments in the early 2000s paved the way for today’s breakthrough, Outterson says.

Moving forward, he says even with proposed increases in scientific research spending in Congress, the question is whether it’s a substantial enough investment.

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