Thana Cristina de Campos, The Von Hugel Institute, at St Edmund’s College/Cambridge
28th January 2015
As of this month, almost 8,000 people have lost their lives to Ebola, the majority in the desperately poor conditions of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. The number is escalating and the virus is spreading across international boundaries. Clearly, the Ebola epidemic is a global emergency that calls for humanitarian intervention and an urgent effective global response. But the current Ebola crisis is not just another natural disaster: it is also the manifestation of a major structural problem in our global institutions. In this sense the Ebola outbreak is a moral catastrophe, linked to one specific moral problem: the failure of the intellectual property rights regime to incentivize medical research and development (R&D) on diseases afflicting mainly the poor – the so-called ‘neglected diseases’. Ebola is one such neglected disease. The lack of a vaccine or a cure is directly traceable to the lack of incentive for medical discoveries.