Feds To Provide As Much As $42.3 Million To Tiny San Diego-Based Mapp Biopharmaceutical

Published: Sep 03, 2014

Feds To Provide As Much As $42.3 Million To Tiny San Diego-Based Mapp Biopharmaceuticals

September 3, 2014

By Krystle Vermes, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

As the Ebola outbreak in West Africa continues to make headlines around the world, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is putting funding toward San Diego-based Mapp Biopharmaceutical. The government will give up to $42.3 million to help the biotechnology company develop ZMapp, its experimental Ebola drug.

Mapp Biopharmaceutical has a staff of just nine people. It lacks the resources it needs to propel the development of its Ebola drug, which could potentially help those in West Africa. Now that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is providing assistance to Mapp Biopharmaceutical, the biotechnology company may be able to further its work on ZMapp.

“While ZMapp has received a lot of attention, it is one of several treatments under development for Ebola, and we still have very limited data on its safety and efficacy,” Nicole Lurie, the Department of Health and Human Services’ assistant secretary for preparedness and response, told the news source.

ZMapp works by combining three antibodies that bind to proteins within the Ebola virus, which keeps it from entering cells and replicating. Instead, the drug encourages an immune response that eliminates the virus.

The Ebola outbreak is the first in West Africa’s history, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms of the disease may appear in patients anywhere from two to 21 days upon contracting it. Most commonly, people will begin to exhibit a high fever, weakness, diarrhea and vomiting. Without immediate medical treatment, an individual is at risk of death. That being said, there is no cure for Ebola to date.

ZMapp has never been extensively tested in humans, but it was administered in seven healthcare workers who contracted the disease in West Africa earlier this year. Four people who received the drug survived.

The journal Nature reported that in a recent study, ZMapp was able to protect monkeys from the Ebola virus. Additionally, it was effective when the disease was at an “advanced” stage in the subjects. However, not everyone is convinced that ZMapp is safe for humans.

“I don’t think the data support that this drug is effective, even in the animal model, in individuals with advanced Ebola disease,” infectious-disease physician Charles Chiu at the University of California, San Francisco, told Nature.

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