U.S. Officials Push for Production of Promising Anti-Ebola Drug

CU.S. officials are pushing biotechnology researchers at Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc. to make more of ZMapp, which ran out in August. The drug is a promising experimental Ebola treatment. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation gave Mapp a $150,00 grant to examine whether it is possible to mass produce the drug. According to the foundation’s senior program officer Bryan Callahan, Mapp and its partners have discussed the feasibility of increasing production with a traditional biotechnology manufacturing technique with Amgen Inc. but no final decision has been made in regard to a pharma partner. Amgen is the world’s biggest biotechnology company by sales and is based in Thousand Oaks, California.

Zintro expert Antonio Toniolo, MD, FAMH, explains, “The ZMapp “biological drug” (a cocktail of anti-Ebola antibodies) is of great value. However, its efficacy will be limited to rich Countries with a few Ebola cases. This is due to difficulties in production, costs, distribution, and administration to patients.”Two products will be more effective and are badly needed: 1) an oral antiviral drug (a chemical) that may be used both for curing infected people and for preventing virus replication in people possibly exposed to virus (e.g., healthcare workers, family members of cases, etc.). The drug could derive from pipelines of several different Pharma companies after “short” in vitro testing against Ebola virus; 2) an Ebola vaccine. This is being developed in Switzerland and elsewhere.

“There are no major difficulties in this direction, but the time required to measure safety and efficacy in animals and humans is surely long. Then, the vaccine should be produced, distributed, administered to at risk populations, etc. The herd immunity effects will take over one year in a small nation. In the short term, I would suggest to concentrate efforts on chemicals with possible activity against Ebola virus replication. Pharma companies and virology experts know well what virus enzymes need to be targeted.”

Navneet Sharma is a biotechnology professional who works in research and higher education. In his  opinion, “Although there might be so many different methods for producing antibodies, they all need to be checked before these techniques are implemented at mass production scale. But definitely there had been so many patients who are either suffering or have died because of this disease. What about their ‘blood?’ Could it not be used as a source of antibodies against Ebola? I totally think so.

“That way we wouldn’t be looking at alternatives for producing recombinant antibodies but the ones produced in the natural host itself. What does everyone say? The only thing that we need to develop is ‘a protocol for getting blood from such patients and then a method to store it and get antibodies separated from it.’ It should definitely be given a try and I think that it will relieve us from looking for similar plants like Tobacco to produce Ebola antibodies.”

Zintro has experts in every industry sector, across every job function, in every geographic region. Recently, some of the following topics have seen inquiry activity: