A concerted response from local and international healthcare workers and public health officials addressed the serious threat of Ebola. CIHR research efforts were launched to deal with this significant health crisis.

CIHR proudly supported rapid response initiatives that assisted in Canada's response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa in 2015. These initiatives supported research that sought to develop new approaches to treating, preventing and containing the disease.

Ebola Research Funding Initiatives

Canada's Clinical Trials on Ebola vaccine

Phase 1 Clinical Trial

On November 14, 2014 the Minister of Health announced the launch of a Canadian Phase I clinical trial for the VSV-EBOV Ebola vaccine; the product of more than 10 years of work by scientists at the Public Health Agency of Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory. This vaccine does not contain a live Ebola virus, but rather it contains a portion of the protein covering the virus, which may help the immune system generate antibodies against it. The trial, supported by the CIHR Institute of Infection and Immunity and the Public Health Agency of Canada, is led by the Canadian Immunization Research Network (CIRN) and is taking place in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The Canadian trial is examining lower dosing levels as well as the effect of the vaccine on older populations. There is no risk that volunteers could contract the Ebola virus through participation in the trials.

Phase 3 Clinical Trial

In November 2014, CIHR, PHAC and IDRC launched a call for Expressions of Interest for Canadian researchers wishing to participate in an International Consortium to conduct a phase II/III (safety, immunogenicity and efficacy) clinical trial of an Ebola vaccine in Guinea.

The WHO announced the launch of the Guinean trials on March 5, 2015, and vaccination with the Canadian-developed VSV-EBOV began on March 25. The trial uses a ring vaccination approach, involving the identification of a newly-diagnosed case of Ebola and the tracing of all of this individual's contacts. If the contacts gave consent, they were vaccinated. In this way, researchers can not only determine the efficacy of the vaccine in study participants, but also whether vaccinating the contacts creates a buffer around the infected individual to prevent further spread of the virus.

These trials are led by researchers from Guinea as part of a team that includes collaborators from several countries under the supervision of the Health Ministry of Guinea and in coordination with a number of other groups including: other stakeholders currently working to combat Ebola in Guinea, either as a part of the emergency response or on clinical trials of novel therapeutics; the WHO; and other national and international organizations who are conducting clinical trials in other Western African countries affected by the Ebola virus. Canadian scientists are providing critical advice, safety oversight and capacity development throughout the trial.

Innovative Ebola Research

In April 2015, expanding its focus beyond clinical trials, CIHR launched the Innovative Ebola Research Grants funding opportunity. This call was designed to support research projects related to the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) that are likely to have an impact within a short timeframe on the management of EVD during the current outbreak in West Africa, or on the prevention or improved response to potential future EVD pandemics. Four key research areas were identified as high priority, and projects relevant to the following areas were supported: Ebola biology; Ebola treatment; transmission, spread, containment and prevention of Ebola; and the impacts of the Ebola crisis on health systems.

Results of the CIHR Innovative Ebola Research Grant Funding Opportunity

See the list of Funded Recipients on our Funding Decisions page under September 2015.

Ebola research success stories

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