Rusal takes the lead in Ebola research
Mining and medical research may not seem like likely bedfellows, but at the height of the West African Ebola crisis in 2014, Rusal was instrumental in containing the deadly virus – but also advancing research into treatments and vaccines that will help counteract Ebola in the future.
On the 26th December 2013, as an 18-month old boy in a small village in Guinea began to exhibit symptoms of a mysterious illness characterised by black stools, vomiting and fever. The boy was suffering from the deadly infectious disease of Ebola. Within just two days he was dead, quickly followed by several members of his family. The disease rippled through the family’s circles – midwives, healers, hospital staff, undertakers – and then again through other communities, leaving a trail of death and devastation in its wake.
By August of 2014, the World Health Organisation estimated that 377 people had succumbed to the disease, while the number of reported cases of Ebola had risen to 510. Guinean president Alpha Conde declared a state of emergency.
Rusal helps contain Ebola and further Ebola research
As international NGO Médecins Sans Frontières points out, despite that fact that the Ebola outbreak of 2014 came nearly 40 years after the first known outbreak of the virus in 1976, Ebola research in the intervening years was minimal. As Dr. Bertrand Draguez put it, the world was “faced with a disease of which we knew little and for which we had no cure, no means to prevent and with a lot of diagnostic constraints”.
When the Ebola crisis hit, Rusal provided significant support to help to change that situation. Rusal supported research into both treatment for Ebola and preventative measures.
Why Rusal supported research into Ebola in Guinea
Rusal has a long-standing relationship with Guinea. It is one of the largest foreign investors in Guinea, and the country’s largest foreign employer. While other international businesses fled from the country as Ebola took hold, Rusal created a world-leading, $10 million Centre for Epidemic and Microbiological Research and Treatment (CEMRT). Built in just 50 days in the country’s Kindia region, Rusal’s research centre was to play a pivotal role in Guinea’s response to Ebola.
With facilities including an infection hospital, a provisional hospital, a mobile laboratory for research and a blood and plasma transfusion department with additional laboratory, Rusal’s centre was instrumental in treating those effected with the Ebola virus in Guinea. However, just as – if not more – important was its contribution to Ebola research globally.
In order to facilitate research into Ebola, Rusal ensured that CEMRT had world-class research facilities at Biosafety Level 3 according to international certification, meaning that field research into Ebola and other communicable diseases could be carried out safely. Rusal also provided high-precision laboratory equipment in order to support CEMRT’s scientists in their research into Ebola.
How Rusal’s CEMRT was instrumental in facilitating Ebola research
These cutting-edge research facilities provided by Rusal to CEMRT meant scientists could safely and effectively conduct research into biological materials, with the aim of better understanding Ebola and the feasibility of creating cures and vaccines.
In the course of what was to become ground-breaking research, scientists from Rusal’s CEMRT worked with their peers from one of Russia’s leading medical and biological research institutions – the Russian State Gamaleya Institute for Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow. There, following exhaustive research, a vaccine was developed under the working directive of the president and quickly awarded Russian state registration.
In February 2016, the product of Russian scientists’ research was recognised internationally when the two Russian vaccines were presented to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Director-General of the WHO Margaret Chan emphasised the importance of this vaccine to the international community and its role in furthering research into Ebola.
Rusal and Ebola research: the next phase
Rusal continues to play an active role in Ebola vaccine research & development. Rusal’s CEMRT facility in Guinea is now hosting clinical research trials of the efficacy of the vaccine. In July 2017, the first batch of 1,000 Ebola vaccine doses were sent from Russia to Guinea to be administered at the CEMRT Ebola research facility built by Rusal.
A month later, in August 2017, Guinea announced the launch of post-registration clinical trials of the Gam Evac Combi Ebola vaccine, a research programme that would include the vaccination and health monitoring of volunteers and assessment of their development of immunity over the course of a year. Rusal’s CEMRT is once more the clinical host for this major Ebola research programme.
Discussing this next phase of clinical research into Ebola, Vladislav Soloviev, the CEO of Rusal, observed that “Vaccinations in Guinea are a sizable contribution of Russia in a war against Ebola as well as new hope for the entire of West of Africa to make the risk of deadly infections an issue of the past, thanks to Russian medication. Russia and RUSAL have been supporting Guinea in Ebola disease control and through our mutual cooperation, we managed to deliver results to stop the spread of the epidemic in the country. Our partnership demonstrates a successful implementation of the public-private partnership principles in solving social problems.”
Certainly, Rusal’s contribution to Ebola research has been significant, and has proven that public-private partnerships have the power to be instrumental in solving some of the biggest challenges of our age. CEMRT may have been speedily erected to tackle Ebola, but its legacy will be far reaching as it continues to operate as one of the world’s leading sites for research into deadly diseases threatening mankind.