Go back

Crowdfunding appeal for Ebola takes off

A doctor leading the effort to find a treatment for Ebola has turned to crowdfunding to fund her work on promising experimental drugs.

Erica Ollmann Saphire, a physician at the Scripps Research Institute in California, has raised $100,000 dollars for equipment to make treatments similar to ZMapp, which was used to beat the Ebola virus in five patients in August.

Saphire reached her initial goal of $100,000 on the crowdrise website in less than 2 weeks, receiving sums of $10 to $25,000 from individuals and organizations. Her research consortium now hopes to raise $250,000.

She told NBC News that while the National Institutes of Health has been a strong supporter of her research for years, it was the speed of crowdfunding that attracted her this time. Instead of waiting months or years, she could have money on hand within weeks to address the backlog of antibodies that might be potential treatments for Ebola.

“With the Ebola virus, we’re in a race,” Saphire told the Los Angeles Times.

The appeal on the crowdfunding site says the money will be spent on a fast protein liquid chromotography machine, which purifies the proteins needed for the work. Until now, researchers were doing this by hand, limiting how quickly they could produce more serum.

If it reaches its target, this would be among the most successful crowdfunded scientific research project in the short history of crowdfunding. Earlier this year, a crowdfunded HIV vaccine project raised more than $400,000, although critics say it has yet to show solid results.

Saphire is part of a consortium of laboratories and agencies around the world that helped to formulate the experimental drug ZMapp and is working on other biopharmaceutical treatments for Ebola. ZMapp was given to two American health workers who were evacuated to the United States from West Africa after contracting Ebola. It contains antibodies that bond to the virus, neutralizing it.

Although the Americans and three others survived the virus, two other patients treated with ZMapp succumbed to Ebola.