Dispatches from AAPS 2014

BARDA: Ebola is “a bioterrorism threat”

By Fiona Barry

- Last updated on GMT

Protective equipment for health workers in Guinea. (Picture: EC/ECHO/Jean-Louis Mosser)
Protective equipment for health workers in Guinea. (Picture: EC/ECHO/Jean-Louis Mosser)

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BARDA, the US government’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, has revealed it sees Ebola “as a bioterrorism threat.”

Director Robin Robinson, also Assistant Secretary, Preparedness Response, at the Department of Health and Human Services, told AAPS (the meeting of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists) in San Diego this week “the Department of Homeland Security has done studies to show it has the [potential] to be a bioterrorism weapon.​”

While detailed projections are classified, Robinson told this reporter “we’ll know more next year.​”

The good news, he said, is that the mutation rate for this virus “is not what you see with some of the more promiscuous viruses like HIV.​”

Also helpful in the fight against potential bioterrorism is the fact that vaccine and drug candidates for the Ebola strain seen in the current epidemic are showing “very good protection so far,​” although authorities are remaining “supervigilant,​” he said.

The UN has established its first ever mission for a public health emergency, the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), to address the outbreak. UNMEER aims to stop the spread of the disease, treat patients, and ensure essential services and stability. 

The 90-day plan, implemented in West Africa, is trying to isolate 70% of Ebola cases, and provide safe burials for 70% of patients who die from the virus, by December 1, 2014, rising to 100% by January.

Fighting Ebola: BARDA Director Robin Robinson lists the most promising current Ebola therapies

Vaccine candidates:

  • cAd3 EBOV vaccine (GSK), supported by NIH and BARDA
  • rVSVΔG EBOV vaccine (Newlink Genetics), supported by NIH, DoD, and BARDA
  • AdVac/MVA EBOV vaccine (J&J/BN), supported by NIH
  • rVSVN4CT1 EBOV vaccine (Profectus) supported by NIH, DoD, and BARDA

The College of Pharmacy at the University of Texas at Austin revealed another potential vaccine during AAPS – a nasal spray which has had success in non-human primates. A preclinical study immunizing 1,000 primates raised their survival from 67% to 100% at 150 days after innoculation.

Drug candidates:

  • ZMapp (Mapp), mAb therapy supported by DoD and BARDA
  • TKM100802 (Tekmira), siRNA supported by Dod
  • BCX4430 (BioCryst), adenosine nucleoside analogue supported by NIH
  • Brincidofovir/CMX001 (Chemirix), DNA polymerase inhibitor supported by ?BARDA
  • Favipiravir/T705 (Fujifulm/Medivector), RNA polymerase inhibitor supported b y Dod
  • AV1-6002 (Sarepota), PMO RNA supported by DoD

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