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U.S. gov't says to accelerate development of experimental Ebola drug ZMapp

Xinhua, September 3, 2014 Adjust font size:

The U.S. government said Tuesday it will support accelerating the development of an experimental drug known as ZMapp through a contract worth up to 42. 3 million U.S. dollars.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement that it will provide funding as well as access to subject matter expertise and technical support for manufacturing, regulatory and nonclinical activities through an initial 24.9- million-dollar, 18-month contract with San Diego-based Mapp Biopharmaceutical.

Under the contract that can be extended up to a total of 42.3 million dollars, Mapp Biopharmaceutical will manufacture a small amount of the drug for early stage clinical safety studies and nonclinical studies needed to demonstrate the drug's safety and efficacy in people, it said.

ZMapp probably saved the lives of two U.S. aid workers who contracted Ebola in Liberia while treating patients, but the medication has never been tested in humans.

"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," said Nicole Lurie, assistant secretary for preparedness and response.

ZMapp is a combination of three monoclonal antibodies manufactured in tobacco plants, which bind certain virus proteins and neutralize the virus, decreasing the amount of the virus in the body that the patient's immune system has to fight.

ZMapp has been shown to reduce mortality in mice and nonhuman primates exposed to Ebola viruses, but as an experimental drug, it is currently available only in very limited quantities.

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