West African Consortium Hosts Conference on Post-Ebola Health Challenges

October 12, 2017
Chairman of the West African Clinical Research Consortium, Dr. Moses Massaquoi of Liberia.
Chairman of the West African Clinical Research Consortium, Dr. Moses Massaquoi of Liberia.
Conference participants
Conference participants.

On September 7-9, 2017, the West African Clinical Research Consortium (WAC), in conjunction with the National Institutes of Health and the Advancing Partners & Communities project, hosted over 150 West African and international scientists, clinicians, researchers, policy makers, and other stakeholders at a conference in Guinea’s capital, Conakry. The participants came together to share recent infectious disease-related research, as well as best practices and findings of regional efforts to address post-Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) challenges in the sub-region, including medical, ethical, psycho-social, and community issues.

The conference included cross-cutting and EVD-specific presentations from international and sub-regional scientists. Participants shared expertise on a wide variety of themes and topics that included clinical care, stigma, policy-related issues of survivors, vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics for emerging infectious diseases, research collaboration, capacity building, and community empowerment, as well as collaboration on the “One Health” strategy within the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) for the sub-region.

Guinea’s Minister of Health, Dr. Abdourahmane Diallo, opened the conference, following brief remarks from regional delegates from Liberia, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, and Mali. Dr. Diallo pledged his government’s support to WAC and to the ongoing research to develop vaccines and other therapeutics for the fight against Ebola. International speakers included Ian Crozier, Prof. Akanmori Dicky of the World Health Organization (WHO), Prof. Moses Bockarie, Dr. Elizabeth Higgs of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), JSI’s Jeff Sanderson, and Dr. Eric D’Ortenzio of the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM).

Dr. Elizabeth Higgs applauded the sub-region’s shared commitment to accelerated research for Ebola vaccines. The countries’ support is contributing to the PREVAIL II Ebola treatment study, Zmapp, which has enrolled subjects across the three countries and at the NIH site in the U.S., with Sierra Leone contributing the majority of subjects. According to Dr. Higgs, the study is showing promising trends toward efficacy. The research collaboration among Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone over the past year has led to the launch of the PREVAC study, with INSERM, NIH, MERCK, J&J, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), and the ministries of health working together to assess safety and longer-term immunogenicity of two Ebola vaccines.

Chairman of WAC, Dr. Moses Massaquoi of Liberia, noted that the major goal of WAC is to build a resilient health system that will not only restore the gains made during the outbreak but to have a sustained quality health care for the population, including quality care for Ebola survivors. “Complicating the matter is the many conditions that we do not as yet know about being an Ebola survivor,” said Dr. Massaquoi, while expressing hope that researchers and scientists would discuss and develop common positions on the numerous medical and other community-related issues regarding the impacts of EVD.

The sub-regional collaboration was established in 2015 to seek collaboration and cooperation on vaccine and therapeutic clinical trials through a multi-country regional strategy. A diverse array of international, national, and regional partners are working together in the sub-region to leverage comparative advantages and share research and learning to inform infectious disease policy. These efforts will help advance regional preparedness and bolster global health security in the event of a future infectious disease outbreak.

The key stakeholders include the National Institutes of Health, the joint US-Liberia Clinical Research partnership on Ebola Virus in Liberia (PREVAIL), the Mano River Union, the West African Health Organization, the West African Task Force for the Control of Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases, WHO, INSERM, LSHTM, and the ministries of health of the three countries most affected by Ebola—Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.