Tekmira has started phase II clinical study of its TKM-Ebola-Guinea experimental drug in Sierra Leone, West Africa. The drug will be evaluated for efficacy in Ebola virus-infected patients. The Canadian biopharmaceuticals company announced Wednesday that funding for the trial will be provided by a British health charity called the Wellcome Trust.

Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corp Begins Trial Of TKM-Ebola-Guinea In Sierra Leone

Tekmira expects results in the second half of the year

TKM-Ebola-Guinea is a “synthetic small interfering RNA (siRNA) therapeutic” that specifically targets the strain of Ebola virus that is responsible for the epidemic in African countries. The drug works by blocking certain genes of the Ebola virus, thereby prohibiting its replication. Tekmira said results were expected in the second half of this year.

The University of Oxford was responsible for conducting the clinical trials. Tekmira has already tested an earlier version of TKM-Ebola, which targets a different strain of the deadly virus, in healthy human volunteers. The efficacy of TKM-Ebola-Guinea is now being tested in a fast-tracked trial. Tekmira CEO Dr Mark Murray said the study will enable the company to determine whether TKM-Ebola-Guinea was a promising treatment for Ebola patients.

New cases of Ebola still occurring

Dr Murray said new cases of Ebola infections were still occurring, and many people remain infected. The deadly virus has claimed more than 5,000 lives in West Africa. It reinforces the need for an effective treatment against Ebola. It is the second therapeutic trial to be funded through the £3.2 million Ebola therapeutics platform of the Wellcome Trust.

Separately, Tekmira announced Tuesday that 99.5% of its shareholders had approved its merger with OnCore Biopharma that will create a $750 million entity. Tekmira announced the merger in January, and expects to close the deal in the first half of this year. It will enhance the company’s ability to develop a treatment for Hepatitis-B. Tekmira and OnCore both have Hepatitis-B candidate that work differently.

Tekmira shares fell 0.76% to $18.31 at9:53 AM EDT on Thursday.