Drug manufacturers, U.N. officials meet in Geneva on ways to speed Ebola vaccine

Chief executives from leading vaccine manufacturing companies, along with top officials from key governments, including the United States, China and Russia, met Thursday with the chief of the World Health Organization in an effort to spur the search for an Ebola vaccine.

First indications from the closed-door meeting was that it managed to energize “movement on various fronts,” said one of the attendees.

“It was a very productive meeting on potential time lines for vaccines, and there were also positive commitments on funding,” said one U.S. official who spoke anonymously to McClatchy because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

One big plus from the meeting, several attendees said, was a commitment from rich nations to finance clinical trials of a vaccine. As the meeting was underway, the European Commission, the administrative arm of the European Union announced in Brussels, that it had earmarked $31 million for Ebola research.

One topic of the meeting was whether to limit manufacturers’ liability if a vaccine is rushed into use.

“I think it is reasonable that there should be some level of indemnification because the vaccine is essentially being used in an emergency situation before we’ve all had the chance to confirm” its safety,” Andrew Witty, the chief executive of GlaxoSmithKline, the multinational drug manufacturer, told the BBC, according to Reuters. He was among the people who attended the meeting.

Charles Link, the CEO of Iowa-based NewLink, and Paul Stoffels, chief scientific officer and worldwide chairman of Johnson & Johnson also attended, according to WHO.

Other participants included top executives and scientists from the Global Vaccine Alliance, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

WHO said items on the agenda included how much vaccine would be needed and who would pay for the vaccine and vaccination programs.