ZMapp, it’s the Ebola virus drug that could be key in beating back the spread of the deadly disease sweeping across Western Africa and now trickling into Spain and the United States. Though the initial few doses of the experimental drug are gone, its parent company is quietly rushing to speed up production.
Dr. Kent Brantly and aid worker Nancy Writebol of Samaritan’s Purse were each brought back to the U.S. from Liberia after contracting the Ebola virus while treating affected patients overseas. The two were the first known infected Ebola patients brought to the U.S. Each was treated with the experimental ZMapp drug and lived.
A Spanish priest took the drug as well, but succumbed to the disease. Three African men also took the drug. One has reportedly died according to a Breitbart report. However, the African that died did not have the clinical circumstance under which the two Americans that lived had. The lack of sterile surrounding is reportedly as contributing to spread of and trouble treating the disease in Africa.
ZMapp, the drug that may or may not have contributed to the healing of Brantly and Writebol, was developed based on research out of La Jolla, California, Breitbart reported recently.
“ZMappTM is the result of a collaboration between Mapp Biopharmaceutical, Inc. and LeafBio (San Diego, CA), Defyrus Inc. (Toronto, Canada), the U.S. government and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC),” according to the LeafBio website.
It was identified as a drug candidate in January 2014. Though human test results are extremely limited, LeafBio states, “ZMappTM has shown efficacy in a monkey model of Ebola in studies conducted by the Public Health Agency of Canada (submitted for publication).“
As of August 12, 2014, a notice was posted to the LeafBio website that all previously available supply of the drug had been exhausted.
Now Mapp’s Chief Executive, Kevin Whaley, is saying that Mapp has teamed up with a new partner and is attempting to further speed up production of the potentially life saving treatment.
“ZMapp is now made in genetically modified tobacco plants by Kentucky BioProcessing. Whaley said the Owensboro, KY company will continue production as fast as possible. At the same time, the new partner, whom Whaley declined to name, will scale up a more traditional biotech process using genetically modified mammalian cells. That process uses “CHO” cells, derived from Chinese hamster ovaries, grown in sterile tanks,” the San Diego Union Tribune reports.
Mapp is also reportedly looking in to whether smaller doses of the drug would be as effective, thus allowing a greater number of patients to be treated with the hopefully soon-to-be-available treatment.
Wednesday the man that represented first case of Ebola diagnosed within the United States, Thomas Eric Duncan, died in a Texas hospital. He reportedly contracted the disease in Liberia before traveling to the U.S. Duncan did not have access to the drug as supplies had been exhausted.
Approximately 100 people are reported to have possibly had contact with the deceased and a handful of those that had significant contact have been quarantined until the 21-day incubation period is complete.
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