Oct 3, 2014
07:41 AMConnecticut Today
Testing to Begin on an Ebola Drug Developed by a Connecticut Company
(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
A Chinese UN soldier prepares a truckload of Ebola relief aid after it was airlifted by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), on August 23, 2014 in Harbel, Liberia.
(page 1 of 4)
Update: Connecticut officially sounded the Ebola-awareness alarm this week. On Tuesday, Gov. Dannel Malloy issued an order that gave the Commissioner of the state Department of Public Health the ability to effectively quarantine an individual or a group of individuals who may have been exposed to or infected with the Ebola virus. Then on Thursday, state employees were emailed an “Advisory for Connecticut State Agencies Regarding Travel to Areas of the World Where There Have Been Outbreaks of Ebola.”
These actions came on week when news broke that Thomas Eric Duncan, who was the first person in the U.S. diagnosed with the disease, died in Texas on Wednesday morning.
Meanwhile, there are multiple Connecticut companies working on Ebola medicine. A Meriden-based company Protein Science is attempting to develop a vaccine for the virus and a Shelton-based company NanoViricides, Inc. is hoping to begin tests on a drug that could treat the virus.
Several experimental Ebola drugs have been sent to West Africa in an attempt to help control Ebola outbreak, but the effectiveness of these drugs is unclear and it appears that even if they worked they can’t be produced in large enough quantities to make a substantial difference in the overall outbreak.
As we initially reported in August, NanoViricides has plans for a drug that scientists at the company believe can be used to safely treat Ebola, and which, if it works, could be manufactured in great enough quantity to control the current outbreak at the company’s Connecticut lab. At that time it appeared the company would not be able to test the concept until after the current Ebola outbreak was brought under control because there are only a handful of labs in the world with live Ebola strains available for testing—all of which are overwhelmed by the outbreak. However, Connecticut U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal recently wrote a letter on the company’s behalf to help move the testing process along. Now Dr. Anil Diwan, chairman and president of NanoViricides, says the company has a contract ready to be signed with a lab with Ebola-testing capabilities and that testing could begin soon (he says he can’t release the name of this lab until after the contract is signed).
Diwan says the U.S. occurrence of Ebola highlights the urgency of developing an Ebola drug that works and can be manufactured in great enough quantity. “It is now close to home; it’s not a West Africa problem anymore, the concern is heightened.”
See our original story below for the detailed history of NanoViricides, Inc. and the science behind the company’s proposed Ebola drug.
The suspected Patient Zero in the current Ebola outbreak lived in Guéckédou, in southeastern Guinea near the borders of Sierra Leone and Liberia. He first began showing strong symptoms of the virus on Dec. 2, and died just four days later. He was 2 years old.
A week after the boy’s death, the deadly disease killed his mother, then his 3-year-old sister and grandmother. Unrecognized, the virus, which has a two-to-three week incubation period, continued to spread.
Two people who attended the grandmother’s funeral took it back to their village, and spread it to relatives from other villages. A health worker contracted it and spread it to yet another village.
The virus was identified as Ebola in March but that has done little to slow the rate of contamination. To date, the disease has infected 2,473 people and resulted in 1,350 deaths.
Last week the World Health Organization said the scale of the epidemic had been vastly underestimated and "extraordinary measures" were needed to contain the disease.
"It is deteriorating faster, and moving faster, than we can respond to," MSF (Doctors Without Borders) chief Joanne Liu told reporters in Geneva according to MSN.com.
(Above: an MSF medical worker, wearing protective clothing at an MSF Ebola treatment facility in Kailahun, on August 15, 2014. CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images)
The region is awaiting consignments of up to 1,000 doses of the barely-tested drug ZMapp from the United States, while Canada is sending between 800 and 1,000 doses of a vaccine called VSV-EBOV, which has been effective in animals but has never been tested on humans. Results from ZMapp have been mixed, and even if either drug proves to be safe and effective, supplies are inefficient to stem the tide of the outbreak.
“This outbreak doesn't appear to be going away, it's not burning itself out,” says Dr. Eugene Seymour, an MD, MPH and CEO of NanoViricides, Inc., a small Connecticut biotech company that recently resumed its research for the development of an Ebola drug.
The move was prompted by the Ebola crisis in Africa and the fact that Seymour and scientists in the company believe they can potentially fight this disease more effectively than anyone else.