Tekmira’s experimental Ebola drug TKM-Ebola-Guinea has been found to be effective in monkeys. According to a study published in the journal Nature, TKM-Ebola-Guinea specifically targets the Makona strain of the virus, which was responsible for the deadliest Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Since March 2014, more than 10,000 people have died from the disease in Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Liberia, Guinea and Mali.
All three monkeys treated with Tekmira’s drug survive
Tekmira conducted the study in collaboration with the University of Texas Medical Branch. Researchers intentionally injected Makona strain of the Ebola virus in six rhesus monkeys. Three days later, three of the infected monkeys were given Tekmira’s experimental drug. All the three treated monkeys survived and were healthy when the trial ended after 28 days.
The other three untreated monkeys died within nine days. TKM-Ebola-Guinea contains “small-interfering RNAs (siRNAs).” It works by blocking two of the virus’ seven genes, thereby preventing their replication. Thomas Geisbert of the University of Texas said that an experimental drug that works for one strain may not work for another, even if the two strains are almost identical.
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TKM-Ebola-Guinea can be produced in just two months
But Tekmira’s drug can easily be adapted to act against any Ebola strain. TKM-Ebola-Guinea can be produced in as little as two months, compared to several months required for Mapp Biopharmaceutical’ ZMapp. ZMapp has cured monkeys, but in an Ebola strain that was different from the one responsible for the current outbreak.
At present, there is no treatment for Ebola that is proven to work in humans. Last month, Tekmira began limited trial of TKM-Ebola-Guinea on humans in Sierra Leone. Results from these trials are expected in the second half of this year. A study of a previous version of Tekmira’s drug was halted when healthy volunteers showed side effects on higher doses.
Earlier this month, an improved version of a vaccine from Merck and NewLink Genetics cured all eight monkeys in lab experiments.
Tekmira shares jumped 2.83% to $18.90 in pre-market trading Thursday.