News | Nov 30, 2018

ZMapp trials restarted as Ebola outbreak persists in Congo

Licensed from the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, therapeutic drug proves effective in saving lives

Following a spike in the number of reported Ebola cases in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) North Kivu Province, ALIMA (The Alliance for International Medical Action) has scaled up its response within the treatment center in the city of Beni, which is now the epicenter of the outbreak.

ALIMA photo

An international research team has begun patient enrollment in a clinical trial testing Ebola therapies in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Since the start of the current outbreak in August, 245 deaths out of 426 cases of Ebola have been reported in two northeastern provinces, according to the Congo’s Health Ministry.

The randomized, controlled trial is taking place at a treatment unit in the city of Beni operated by The Alliance for International Medical Action, a humanitarian organization. The trial will compare mortality among patients who receive one of three investigational Ebola drugs with a control group of patients who receive ZMapp, produced by Mapp Biopharmaceutical of San Diego.

“We urgently need a safe and effective treatment for this deadly disease,” said DRC Minister of Health Oly Ilunga Kalenga, M.D., Ph.D. “As we face a tenth outbreak of Ebola, we hope this clinical trial will give us more information about how best to treat patients.”

ZMapp contains a cocktail of monoclonal antibodies developed in part by the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. It was previously deployed during the 2014 major Ebola outbreak and was shown to be effective in saving lives.  The National Institute of Health planned a randomized clinical trial then, but the outbreak subsided before the experiment could be completed and the results were invalid.

News Article Image of ZMapp trials restarted as Ebola outbreak persists in Congo

In this 2007 photo, Dr. John M. Dye, Jr., U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) Viral Immunology branch chief, conducts research on the experimental drug ZMapp, a treatment for patients infected by the deadly Ebola virus.

U.S. Army

According to Reuters, 151 patients have received one of the four drugs. Of those, 76 have recovered, 44 have died and 31 were still hospitalized — a mortality rate of 37 percent. In contrast, the mortality rate of patients who received no treatment is nearly 80 percent.

TechLink, the Department of Defense’s national partnership intermediary for technology transfer, helped license the Army-developed antibodies to Mapp Biopharmaceutical in 2009.

Brett Cusker, TechLink’s executive director, credits the Army for their commitment to public health and technology transfer partnerships.

“Biomedical research conducted by the DoD can lead to life-saving therapies like ZMapp. This is why we help DoD labs market and license technologies, so they get into the hands of transition partners,” Cusker said. “It stimulates the U.S. economy, creates jobs, and benefits the public.”