San Diego Ebola drug may have saved Americans - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

San Diego Ebola drug may have saved Americans

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A Sorrento Valley biotech firm is reportedly a key player in the effort to save two Americans who became infected with the usually fatal Ebola virus while working with patients in Africa.

Sources told CNN that Dr. Kent Brantly, who was helping victims of an outbreak of Ebola in West Africa when he himself became sick, was given an experiment drug called ZMapp, which was created by Mapp Biopharmaceutical in San Diego.

The sources said Brantly felt like he was near death, but his labored breathing and skin rash improved after he was administered the medication.

CNN reported that the second American, missionary Nancy Writebol, was given ZMapp, too, and has also improved.

ZMapp harnesses antibodies created by Defyrus, a Toronto company. "Mapp Bio" and its commercialization partner, Leaf Biopharmaceutical, entered into a commercialization agreement with Defyrus last month.

Mapp Biopharmaceutical in March became part of a consortium working to create a "cocktail" of drugs to treat Ebola. The group of 15 institutions, led by The Scripps Research Institute of La Jolla, was funded for $28 million over five years by the National Institutes of Health.

According to the Mapp Bio website, ZMapp was identified as a drug candidate in January and has not been evaluated for safety in humans, and very little of it is available. The company said it was working with "appropriate government regulators" to increase production as soon as possible."

Mapp Bio is also working on treatments for HIV and ricin, among other things.

Brantly is being treated in a highly specialized infectious diseases unit at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, where Writebol is scheduled to be flown on Tuesday.

Infectious disease specialists say the virus -- which has killed more than 700 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone -- is unlikely to spread far in the U.S. because it requires contact with bodily fluids.

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