News Feature | March 28, 2014

New Drugs Aim To Treat Ebola

By Marcus Johnson

Researchers are working on developing new drugs that could treat the Ebola virus. In January, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals began a human trial for an experiment treatment. There has been other recent work on a treatment as well. Scripps Research Institute professor Erica Ollmann Saphire claims that “there are already candidate cocktails that can be used in an emergency.”

The Tekmira Pharmaceuticals research was funded by a $140 million contract with the US government's Defense Department. The Scripps Research Institute is also receiving funding for developing Ebola treatments. The US National Institutes of Health awarded Saphire's group at the Scripps Research Institute $28 million through a five year grant.

Industry experts believe that Ebola has not been looked at as a viable option for a commercial drug product by pharmaceutical companies. There have been less than 10,000 cases of Ebola since it was discovered, which limits its profitability. Still, some researchers are testing cancer drugs from pharmaceutical giants such as Novartis and finding some success. A study from 2012 found that two cancer drugs from Novartis, Gleevec and Tasigna, also worked to prevent death in a significant amount of animals with the virus.

Ebola has remained a deadly disease, usually occurs in emerging countries. Ebola is responsible for the death of 90% of people who are afflicted with the virus. A recent outbreak in Guinea killed 63 people, and the virus remains feared throughout Africa. Still, the World Health Organization has not issued any travel restrictions and claims that the risk to visitors is low.