As researchers race to develop vaccines and treatments to fight Ebola, health experts are grappling with the economics of a disease that until this year had been off the drug industry's radar. Whether or not effective drugs come in time to turn around the world's worst epidemic of the virus ravaging three West African countries, the world will want stockpiles to protect against inevitable future outbreaks, experts say. So a new structure, which some call "Ebolanomics", is needed to revise the business model for a once neglected disease. Gavi, the global vaccines alliance, is already working to figure out how to procure a future Ebola vaccine at an affordable price, and drugmakers are considering how much to invest in a disease that, until this outbreak, had infected barely 2,400 people in four decades. Even now Ebola is unlikely to become a big money-spinner for pharmaceutical firms, since it afflicts the poor in Africa and the need for medical stockpiles in developed countries will be modest. "What Gavi is going to do is look at all the potential options and ask whether we should create an artificial market," Gavi chief executive Seth Berkley said. That could include making advance commitments to buy so many million doses of a vaccine, with an added incentive of offering a much higher price for the first tranche of any purchase. "There are no economics now because we do not need a vaccine in the United States or Spain or the UK, though that's not to say people wouldn't buy it right now because people are panicking," Berkley said. Risk management firm RMS said the Ebola epidemic had the potential to be the most deadly infectious disease event since the 1918 flu pandemic. It has already killed nearly 5,000 people. Researchers are already testing two candidate vaccines from GlaxoSmithKline and NewLink Genetics, with a third from Johnson & Johnson set to enter human trials in January. Thousands of front-line health care workers should start receiving them from the start of next year. Scaling up to the millions needed for mass immunisation is a project for later next year and will require backing from governments and donor organisations. "This situation requires new ways of working and thinking," GlaxoSmithKline's chief executive Andrew Witty said this week as he declared his firm would happily work with rivals in what he described as "phenomenal collaboration" in the Ebola fight. Investors are taking note, with the shares of small biotechnology firms most exposed the success or failure of a product liable to jump and dip on scraps of news suggesting success or failure.