Feds ink $25 million contract with Ebola drug maker Mapp Biopharma
- The Department of Health and Human Services' Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) on Tuesday announced that it will contract with CA-based Mapp Biopharmaceutical to develop its promising experimental Ebola drug, ZMapp.
- The 18-month contract is worth $24.9 million, with an option to extend it up to $42.3 million.
- HHS will "provide funding as well as access to subject matter expertise and technical support for manufacturing, regulatory, and nonclinical activities" related to ZMapp, according to an agency press release.
Mapp can certainly use all the help it can get when it comes to making more ZMapp doses. The small, San Diego-based biotech has just nine employees and exhausted its entire stockpile of ZMapp after sending doses to health workers in West Africa and international teams of scientists testing the drug's efficacy on animals.
A study published in Nature last Friday found that ZMapp had successfully saved 18 Ebola-infected rhesus monkeys, including ones that had been infected with the virus for as long as five days. The drug has had mixed effects on the humans who have been treated with it, with at least four patients' conditions improving while two patients died.
With fears that the Ebola epidemic may be "spiraling out of control" and public health officials like CDC head Dr. Tom Frieden calling on western nations to step up their game when it comes to controlling the outbreak, expect more collaborations of this sort in the coming months. “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 Dr. Nicole Lurie, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at HHS, in a statement. “Developing drugs and vaccines to protect against Ebola as a biological threat has been a long-term goal of the U.S. government, and today’s agreement represents an important step forward.”
Last week, the FDA granted GlaxoSmithKline's experimental Ebola vaccine the go-ahead to launch phase I human clinical trials. The outbreak has spread to five countries and killed upwards of 1,500 people in Africa so far.