The new outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has brought along with it a new chance to develop and prove ground-breaking vaccines and treatment.
The outbreak, which began in September 2018, is spreading faster than ever. This is partly due to political instability, which has prevented many patients from accessing care centers and caused others to return to their villages, spreading the disease even more widely. A record number of cases has been logged in each of the past two weeks, and there are no signs of them slowing down as of yet.
However, the rising threat of the humanitarian crisis has energized the battle to cure and possibly even prevent the disease. After the 2016 epidemic came to an end, many companies paused their efforts in developing new drugs, but they have restarted with greater enthusiasm since the latest outbreak. The number of patents, clinical trials, grants, and other events surrounding new Ebola treatments is at its highest for two years.
Business events around Ebola (Worldwide Data, Apr. 2017 – Jan. 2019)
Spurred into action by the fear of an even more disastrous epidemic, local authorities have permitted the use of experimental drugs, such as Favipiravir by Toyoma, and Remdesivir by Gilead, which had been administered as an emergency treatment in 2016.
Events around Ebola between March 2017 and March 2019
In addition to these efforts into developing a cure for Ebola, other companies have been working on finding a vaccine to prevent the disease. A single clinical trial is currently running to test three monoclonal antibodies and one antiviral at once, and compare their efficacy.
Zmapp (by Mapp Biopharmaceutical), and mAB114 (by the DRC’s National Institute of Biomedical Research), together with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (part of NIH), and REGN-EB3 (Regeneron), are the antibodies participating in the trial. REGN-EB3 was first investigated during the 2014 outbreak.
They are being assessed against the antiviral drug Remdesivir, made by Gilead. The number of clinical trials for an Ebola vaccine is at its highest since 2015. It is unusual to have a clinical trial running on such a large scale, but the consequences are serious enough to justify this step.
Clinical trials on Ebola (Worldwide Data, Oct. 2013 – Oct. 2018)
Since March 25, 2019, almost 100,000 people have been vaccinated with the experimental vaccine v920 by Merck. 629 deaths have been reported in the same period, but hope remains that this epidemic will not cause the same disastrous death toll as the last outbreak, and that it will bring new means of prevention and treatment.
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Written by Naomi Karoubi, PhD
Life Science Business Consultant at Signals Analytics
Naomi has worked for Signals Analytics for two years, both as a consultant and a project manager. She completed her Ph.D. in neuro-economics at Ben Gurion University and also holds an MBA from ETH Zurich.
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