Culture Collections

Call for Research Applications to the PHE-MOHS Ebola Biobank




During the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone in 2014 -15, residual clinical specimens and accompanying data were collected from routine diagnostic testing in Public Health England (PHE) led laboratories. The samples with all the accompanying data were transferred to PHE laboratories in the UK for curation by PHE.  The biobank holds approximately 9955 samples of which 1108 are positive for Ebola.   

The Ministry of Health and Sanitation in Sierra Leone (MOHS) have retained ownership of the data and materials and have agreed to work with PHE and other collaborators to develop and conduct a series of research projects that will inform future public health strategy relating to Ebola.  

The Biobank is an open access resource that is supported by the Wellcome Trust.  The samples are available to bona fide scientists, undertaking health-related research that is in the public good. Scientists from the UK and overseas and from academia, government, charity and commercial companies can apply. Samples will be released when the risk of them containing live virus has been eliminated using a validated inactivation procedure. The method of virus inactivation is discussed with the receiving researcher and currently has involved the use of a commercial RNA/DNA extraction kit. We plan to use X - ray radiation for inactivation at some point in the future.



The biobank is a limited resource and research projects will be prioritised.  The MOHS-PHE Ebola Biobank Governance Group (EBGG) is an independent group that has been established to co-ordinate access to the data and materials for researchers and to ensure effective use of the resource. 

Application to the biobank is a one stage application process and needs to be made to the MOHS-PHE Ebola Biobank Governance Group (EBGG).

The purpose of the EBGG is to ensure the materials are used for health related purposes and researchers applying to use materials/data from the biobank will need to explain explicitly how their research project supports this purpose.

The EBGG will assess if the proposed research use meets the required criteria for access (including legal and ethics standards) and whether the amount of depletable sample required is scientifically justified.  Researchers will need to demonstrate that they have been awarded funding to cover the costs of their research. 

Applications for samples will be also be required to demonstrate explicit scientific value on the basis set out in the EBGG Access Guidelines. Applicants wishing to access materials are advised to contact the PHE HRG (Head of Research Governance) to confirm sample availability before their projects are finalised.

Updated June 2019

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