Seven Best Hopes for a Drug to Fight Ebola

The following press release went out on November 6th, 2014:

Ebola is expected to infect 1.4 million people by January 2015. Out of the first 9200 people infected, 4500, or 49% have died. There are currently 13,500 cases. Pharmaceutical companies and governments are joining forces in a massive global effort to contain and defeat the current outbreak. Here are seven drugs, all in experimental stages, with the best chances of succeeding:

  1. The Livestock Vaccine (VSV-EBOV). This vaccine uses a virus found in livestock modified to include part of the gene from the Ebola virus. It’s Canadian, but licensed to NewLink Genetics of Iowa who will have up to 12 million doses of the vaccine ready by April. Testing in monkeys gave encouraging results. Human testing began in October 2014. “Due to the sheer volume of shots that could be available quickly, this is our best hope to beat down this disease the fastest,” says Dr. Stephen Shrewsbury, author of Defy Your DNA: How the New Gene Patch Personalized Medicines Will Help You Overcome Your Greatest Health Challenges (10 Finger Press/2013).
  2. The Big Pharma Vaccine (GlaxoSmithKline’s Unnamed Shot)-UK’s GSK bought Swiss biotech company Okairos which came with their Ebola vaccine. With GSK’s financial muscle behind it, testing has been accelerated and human studies begun. “Single dose trials deliver quick results so we’ll know if this vaccine works soon,” says Shrewsbury. GSK is betting on it and is making 10,000 doses of the vaccine for healthcare workers in West Africa.
  3. The Double Header (Johnson & Johnson’s Unnamed Vaccine) – 600 volunteers will be given two shots – one, developed by J & J, to get their immune system ready for action, and the second, by Bavarian Nordic, to increase its responsiveness. The shots in humans may be given at two week increments, though in animal trials the wait was two months. J & J is investing $200 million in this approach.
  4. The Gene Patch (TKM-Ebola) – Tekmira’s product blocks the message that comes from the DNA of Ebola so it can no longer hijack the human host cell and multiply. This allows the immune system of the infected individual to defeat the virus. Tekmira, of Vancouver, Canada has been working with the US Department of Defense and started human testing in early 2014. They had already shown encouraging results in primates, turning 100% fatality into 80% survival. Limited amounts of their drug will be available by December 2014. “In the long-term,” says Shrewsbury, “this gene patch might be the most useful of all these drugs as it will be the most stable, portable and given before or after exposure.” Sarepta, another gene patch company performed safety testing of their drug in humans in 2011, with encouraging results.
  5. The Small Molecule (Brincidofovir). Recently the FDA gave permission for this antiviral “small molecule” drug from Chimerix, to be given to patients with Ebola. Dallas patient Thomas Eric Duncan died after using this drug. Doctors Without Borders plans on trying this drug in West Africa ASAP without doing a double blind study.
  6. The Flu Shot (Avigan – favipiravir) –Fujifilm of Japan’s anti-flu vaccine stops viral genes from reproducing and may work the same way on Ebola. Though this drug is at an early stage, Doctors Without Borders is planning on trying it right away, too. If it works, Fujifilm says it can quickly manufacture the drugs in massive quantities. It currently has 20,000 doses available. A French nurse treated with the drug recovered from Ebola.
  7. The Tobacco (ZMapp) – This vaccine is a combination of three monoclonal antibodies made by genetically modified tobacco plants. Two were developed by Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory, and the third comes from the US Army Research Institute of Infectious Disease, Mapp Biopharmaceuticals of San Diego licensed the drug and offered it to both US healthcare workers who were treating Ebola victims in Liberia. Both were isolated and treated at Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital, and both survived their Ebola infections. However, out of a total of seven people given the drug, two died.