Ebola patients get drug from tiny US firm

Mapp Biopharmaceutical's experimental treatment may have helped 2 Americans infected with the virus.

By MSN Money Partner Aug 4, 2014 7:19PM
Ultrastructural morphology displayed by an Ebola virus virion is revealed in this undated handout colorized transmission electron micrograph
© Umaru Fofana/ReutersBy Marie French, Caroline Chen and Makiko Kitamura, Bloomberg News

A biotechnology company with just nine employees provided a drug for two Americans infected with the Ebola virus who have recently shown signs of improvement.

Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., a closely held company based in San Diego, provided the treatment, which hadn't previously been tested in humans, said a person who asked not to be identified because the transaction was private. The request came from Samaritan's Purse, a U.S.-based charity that worked with the two Americans in Liberia, the person said.

Kent Brantly, a doctor, was flown from Liberia to Atlanta on Aug. 2, and is under treatment at Emory University Hospital. Nancy Writebol, an aid worker, is set to arrive in Atlanta tomorrow and will be treated at the same hospital. While doctors haven't confirmed they got the experimental drug, they feel better, relatives and supporters said.

Writebol's husband "told me Sunday her appetite has improved," said Bruce Johnson, head of SIM USA, Writebol's charity group, in a statement. "She requested one of her favorite dishes -- Liberian potato soup -- and coffee. We are so grateful and encouraged to hear that Nancy's condition remains stable and that she will be with us soon."

David Writebol will travel back to the U.S. separately in a few days, SIM said in the statement released today.

Both patients were infected while working in an Ebola treatment center in Liberia, one of three West Africa countries reeling from an outbreak that's sickened at least 1,603 people since March, killing 887, according to the World Health Organization.

'Good spirits'

Brantly's wife, Amber, said yesterday that her husband was feeling better, and she thanked Emory University Hospital for accepting him for treatment.

"He is in good spirits," Amber Brantly said in a statement. "He thanked everyone for their prayers and asked for continued prayer for Nancy Writebol's safe return."

Citing unnamed sources, CNN was the first to report today the drug used is Mapp's. Officials at Mapp said they wouldn't comment on the use of their drug.

There is no cure for Ebola, although several companies -- including Mapp -- are working on drug candidates, some of which are being tested in animals. Normally, patients are given fluids, blood transfusions and antibiotics with the hope their immune systems can fight off Ebola's onslaught.

Although no drugs to treat Ebola are approved by U.S. regulators, the Food and Drug Administration can approve an emergency application to provide access to unapproved drugs, FDA spokeswoman Stephanie Yao said in an e-mail.

Emergency use

Approval for emergency drug use outside of a clinical trial can be made within 24 hours, Yao wrote. Shipment and treatment with the drug could begin even before completed written forms are submitted to the FDA, which can approve the use of an experimental treatment by telephone in an emergency.

"The FDA stands ready to work with companies and investigators treating these patients who are in dire need of treatment," Yao said. She declined to say whether the FDA had allowed any drug to be used in the Ebola outbreak.

Before moving to Liberia, Nancy Writebol and her husband were missionaries for the Eustis, Florida-based Rafiki Foundation for 14 years before taking their current post with the charity called SIM USA in 2012. With Rafiki they spent time in Ecuador and Zambia, running an orphanage and school, Karen Elliott, Rafiki Foundation’s executive director said today.

Similar transfer

The process of transferring Nancy Writebol to the hospital in Atlanta will be similar to that used for Brantly, said Alexander Isakov, an emergency physician with Emory University Hospital who was involved in Brantly’s move to the hospital.

During the first trip, "we tried to limit the number of health-care workers who came into contact with the patient," Isakov said, explaining that only a single paramedic was allowed to touch the patient.

The health-care workers wore special protective suits with two functions, he said, providing a barrier against bodily fluids and providing a powered respirator to filter the air.

"I wasn't nervous about this at all," Isakov said about traveling with Brantly.

Medical care of the two U.S. citizens may take two to three weeks if all goes well, Bruce Ribner, an infectious disease specialist at Emory, said in an Aug. 1 news conference.

The Atlanta-based CDC, which confirmed the Brantly and Writebol cases are the first ever on U.S. soil, is working with the hospital and transport company to make sure evacuation of the two patients goes safely, said Barbara Reynolds, an agency spokeswoman.

"We're here to make sure the transportation process and the care here in the U.S. ensures there's no spread," Reynolds said. "It's important to remember this is not an airborne virus, it requires close contact with body fluids. It's minimal risk as long as the people caring for the patient use meticulous procedures."

Aug 4, 2014 9:15PM
Letting this in the Country for the first time in History, not the brightest thing. We could have built something elsewhere just as feasible. You can take all the steps you want, means basically nothing if this things transmute. Now we have an entire Country at Risk, more then it would have been otherwise.

Aug 5, 2014 7:24AM

"It's important to remember this is not an airborne virus...."  (CDC's Reynolds said.)

Yup it wasn't; Until they put it on a PLANE and FLEW it out of Africa, to the U.S. and Georgia.

Aug 4, 2014 10:39PM
Worst idea since Spanish explorers gave small pox laced blankets to American Indians..
Aug 5, 2014 12:15PM
Good news; the company will spend $50 million plus to develop and indemnify themselves and get the vaccine approved to treat maybe 500-1000 of those infected, then the government and the libs will start screaming about being ripped off at $10,000 / dose.
Aug 5, 2014 12:58AM
Yep and now every VC vulture on the planet will be trying to get in Mapp's panties.

Any time, any government officials in  United States tries anything like this, which is a very high security  and highly technical.

They will screw it up.

If it has been proven time and time again the government should stay on vacation.

Just look at those prisoners that were sentenced to death.   

One prisoner took as much as much 1  1/2 hours. To be executed And this was under controlled circumstances, which highly technical Medical devices and monitors. All hired &  owned by the government

Totally controlled by, government officials.

Aug 5, 2014 2:06AM
Just amazing that this is a major story for financial news.
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