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  1. ITV Report

Scientists fight to beat emerging diseases before deadly outbreaks

  • Video report by ITV News Science Correspondent Alok Jha

Scientists are trying to create vaccines for new, emerging and unknown diseases before they potentially cause global health emergencies.

Researchers have said they are first targeting diseases which have the potential to cause serious epidemics.

These include Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), Lassa and Nipah viruses.

The global alliance was officially launched at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Credit: PA

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) is aiming to develop two promising vaccine candidates against each disease before an epidemic strikes.

The initial investment of £375m ($460m) for the work has come from the governments of Germany, Japan and Norway, plus the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust.

The World Health Organisation announced the end of the Zika epidemic in November 2016. Credit: AP

The coalition was just officially launched at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

It is now calling for more investors to come forward to raise another half billion US dollars by the end of this year.

Medical research charity the Wellcome Trust has already pledged to donate another £81.5m ($100m) over the next five years to the project.

Bill and Melinda Gates were both awarded with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for their work to 'provide lifesaving medical care to millions'. Credit: AP

Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has said: "Ebola and Zika showed that the world is tragically unprepared to detect local outbreaks and respond quickly enough to prevent them from becoming global pandemics.

"Without investments in research and development, we will remain unequipped when we face the next threat.

"The ability to rapidly develop and deliver vaccines when new 'unknown' diseases emerge offers our best hope to outpace outbreaks, save lives and avert disastrous economic consequences."